Submitted by Wes
Green Grass Shower
And Other Things Animal
Can, cans and more cans. We had quite the assembly line going, well actually it was a dis-assembly line. There must have been a thousand tin cans in the pile in front of us, sardine cans to three pound coffee cans and everything in between. Most folks would probably view them as something to haul off to the local dump, but when you live in the sticks you can find a use for just about anything, even another man’s garbage. Mom was washing the cans out, us kids were cutting out the bottoms and splitting them down the side with tin snips and dad was hammering everything flat at the anvil. All this effort was because of field mice.
Once you get past a couple hundred pounds of grain, storage becomes a problem, especially when it’s a years worth. We stored our bulk grains – wheat, oats, barley, corn and so on in compartments or bins in a granary. Dad would set us kids to cleaning the bins and getting them ready while he headed off to the local co-op for a load of grain. Depending on the rig he was driving and what he was hauling he would bring back anywhere from twenty five to a hundred fifty bushels of grain at a time. Just to give you a quick idea a bushel of wheat, barley, corn, oats and rye weigh 60lbs, 48lbs, 56lbs, 32lbs and 56lbs respectively.
Most of the old places had a granary in place but every once in a while we would have to build one. In the case of the ones we built the bins had a sloping bottom, which terminated in a chute about two feet off the ground, and sides that were constructed of two by fours, laid flat, in courses, one on top of another. Every twelve to sixteen courses (depending of if they were rough sawn or milled boards) a corner brace would be cut into the course. Somewhere, usually about half way up, in the inner side wall would be the side hatch. The side hatches opened from inside the bins to reduce the risk of a blowout when they were full. Once the walls were done the top was enclosed and had a chute leading to the roof where the top hatch was. A wooden ladder would be installed from the top hatch all the way to the floor. The internal dimensions of the bins could vary but usually they were around six feet square and eight to twelve feet tall and usually limited by the materials we had. All of this was constructed inside the walls and under the roof of a standard exterior shell. Not all granaries were constructed like this but a vast majority were quite similar.
Cleaning the empty bins consisted of opening the side and top hatch and chute, then climbing inside and brooming every nook and cranny, pushing everything out the bottom chute. The dust was horrific and back then nobody gave a thought to wearing a dusk mask. I don’t know if we even knew what one was. You would clean bins all day and blow black snot for a week. Once the bins were cleaned we would close the side hatch and discharge chute then wait up by the top hatch for dad to get back.
The sound of the truck growling up the drive was the signal the heavy lifting was going to commence and I really mean that. Unless we had a grain auger, which was hardly ever the case, we would rope five gallon buckets of grain from the truck to the top hatch to dump them in. Usually dad would fill the buckets, us older kids would rope them up and the younger kids would run to the right bin and dump them. Naturally the auger greatly simplified this process but like a wood splitter it was something to look at in the Sears and Roebuck catalog. By the time you got a full load dumped into the bins your arms really got a workout.
So where do the cans I opened this with fit in? Whoever built the granary on this place had cut some corners. They had basically stick framed the walls and put up 1X12 pine boards on the inside. Age, heat and warping opened up some gaps between the edges of the boards and this was an open invite to the field mice. We had opened a bin only to find the contents completely destroyed and fouled. The field mice had been living high on the hog and what they hadn’t eaten they fouled with mouse droppings.
This was a major catastrophe as we used the grain for our purposes as well as animal feed and replacing the lost grain was a big expense that had already been spent once. It took some real scrimping to come up with the cash to replace the loss and we sure as hell weren’t going to refill the granary only to have it be a feast for vermin a second time. After buying the grain there wasn’t enough money left for purchasing rolled metal so we made do with the tin cans.
We took all the metal we cleaned, cut and hammered flat and after cleaning the bin, we lined the entire inside of it with overlapping pieces of those cans from the mouth of the chute all the way to the top just like laying shingles. It seemed like we went through about a million nails but in reality it probably wasn’t any more than nine hundred ninety nine thousand of them. The sound of four or five hammers pounding away was bad enough but it only became worse as more and more of the interior was covered in metal. It took a few days for the ringing in our ears to subside. I will say once we got done it was quite a sight to shine a light in there. We didn’t have a mouse problem after that, at least in the granary bins.
It didn’t matter whether they were wild or domesticated animals, interactions with them for me were either good, bad or both and a lost pup perfectly illustrates this last condition.
When you live in the absolute middle of nowhere, and you’re going on all of twelve years old, you have to make your own fun. To that end I had been exploring a creek bottom that ran between miles and miles of wheat fields out behind the place we lived. I was getting a fair piece from home when something came bounding down out of the wheat straight in my direction. At first it kind of scared the crap out of me because the area had been having trouble with what everyone felt was a cougar. A couple of kids had been carried off (sheep not human, but I got you there for a moment, didn’t I) and there was a calf kill or two that everyone said didn’t look like the work of coyotes or feral dogs. The big ranchers had enough pull they got a government trapper sent out to look for and remove it.
About the time my feet were telling my brain it was way past time to get the hell out of Dodge a dog burst through the edge of the wheat and with tail wagging ran right up to me with a big grin on her face. No one can resist the urge to pet a happy dog and as soon as my hand touched her head she was all over me licking and carrying on like we were old friends. She had a long black and white coat that terminated in a black mask on half of her face with just the tips of both ears capped in black. Age wise she was somewhat beyond puppy stage. She felt a little skinny as we tussled around but she sure was full of energy.
We played around in the bottom there for awhile with me tossing sticks for her and it didn’t matter how hard I threw one, nor in which direction, she would always find it and bring it back for another go. Getting bored with tossing sticks I started trying to skips rocks in the creek and she thought what great sport and dove right in after the rock. She came up with one in her teeth and I could tell she didn’t believe me when I told her that wasn’t the one I threw in. As much as she liked to chase a stick she liked chasing a tossed rock even better and we wasted a bunch more time with me tossing rocks in and her diving on top of the splash ring to come up with one in her mouth. Right there at the end I think she must have known I was feeling a little hot from the mid July heat because she gave me a cooling shower by shaking off next to me.
The sun was getting pretty low in the sky after a bit and I knew I needed to be heading home or feel dad’s wrath for being out too late and missing chores. I told her she needed to go home now because I was going home. She just sat there with her head cocked and one ear up as I turned and headed down the trail. Less than fifty yards later she was head butting me in the rear. I tried shooing her home a couple more times but she wasn’t having any part of that and ended up tagging along with me all the way back.
Dad wasn’t too happy to see the dog but mom ran interference telling him he could put the word out tomorrow about who was missing a dog. The way she wolfed down a couple bowls of food told us she had been running a little short on vittles for awhile. By the end of the week no one in the area had claimed her and we never did find out where she came from. Somewhere after the first few days dad realized he was fighting a losing battle and gave up complaining about the dog. All us kids were in love with her, but it was apparent that she claimed me as hers. I couldn’t go anywhere without her being underfoot and she won my dad over enough she was allowed to sleep on the foot of my bed. I ended up calling her Pebbles due to her penchant for chasing tossed rocks.
School started and the next two months went by pretty quick. It became an everyday event to come around the last corner of the road before our drive and see her sitting at the end of our lane waiting for us kids to get off the bus. One day she wasn’t there. We called for her the whole two miles in, her name echoing plaintively off the bare stubble hillsides of the fields.
At home we could tell something wasn’t good. Mom ushered the other kids in the house while dad told me to get in the truck, we had business to tend to. We went back down the lane, up the road about half a mile and turned into our neighbors drive. He was waiting for us and I could tell it was something bad. Turns out Pebbles had wandered over from our place to his and put a whole herd of yearlings through a couple of fences. Several animals were tore up pretty bad and even after the farmer caught her she broke free to chase the stock again. There was blood on her muzzle where she had been chewing on some stock and dad said now that she had the taste of blood she would never stop chasing stock. It was up to me to do the right thing. I ended up making a deal with the farmer to go over to his place every day after school to work off the damage to the fences and stock.
This wasn’t make work either, I ended up salvaging old lumber by pulling nails and cutting the ends of square. All the boards were sorted by size and the nails went in a can to be straightened with a hammer on an anvil later on. I mucked barns and cleaned the shop and equipment and was a general gopher for him when he was under equipment in the barn. It took me most of the winter to stand tall to that obligation. I should note this was on top of my chores at our place.
Anyway when I turned around dad had his .45 in hand and a look on his face. I called Pebbles over to me, moved around behind her and with dad’s gun put her down. I wanted nothing more than to cry but I was damned if I was going to do it in front of the farmer and my dad.
We put her lifeless body in the back of the pick up, my dad told the farmer we’d see him tomorrow and headed for home. Dad never said a word to me, he just parked back of the house and went inside. I scrounged up a shovel from one of the outbuildings and while digging her grave the tears started to flow and they didn’t stop until I went to sleep that night.
Though we had a few more family dogs over the years I never could let myself get attached to one the way I had with Pebbles, that is until Pete adopted me after I got out of the service. He’s a whole other story.
Not every tale of an animal ends on a sad note and besides a well mannered dog I have to admit an even greater fondness for a good horse. Out in the sticks everybody had a saddle horse, usually a couple or more. Now these were working horses I’m talking about not pasture ornaments like you see these days. During roundup you could work your horses so hard you’d go through three or more a day and a good horse was worth its weight in gold. Case in point was this one old horse that I picked up in kind of an odd way. I was heading back from a ranch auction where I had hoped to pick up a milk cow heifer but no joy and stopped by to see an old timer I hadn’t kept up with. To my chagrin I found he had gone to his reward and I felt sad over missing him that way.
The folks that had taken over the place, a young couple, I believe they were some of his kin, like second cousins or such, were trying to work some of cattle that were on the place. A girl (the wife) had this really pretty show pony all decked out with a matching bridle, breast collar and doubled rigged saddle with silver conchos everywhere. She was even sporting some ribbons in her mane and tail (the horse not the girl). From appearances the closest that mare had ever been to a cow before was seeing a picture of one in American Rancher magazine. The cows were running circles around her. Everyone else was on foot and it was a real zoo to watch the goings on for a few minutes. I got to talking with the husband, who was not a country boy at all, and made a few suggestions which didn’t even slow down as they went in one ear and out the other.
Seeing me sitting on a corral rail for a bit and having all the cattle bolt around everyone and high tail it for the far end of the pasture again, the girl finally comes over our way to find out why I’m there. Finding out I knew the old man didn’t cut any ice with her “What did I want?” she demanded. Yeah, you’re going to go a long ways with folks up in this country with an attitude like that I thought to myself. “Nothing” I replied, “just dropped by to see the old man”. I didn’t win any favor with her when I suggested she tighten her front cinch before the horse ended up with saddle sores.
Then because I was feeling sorry for the stock being run around that way more than anything else I asked if they’d like a little help getting the cattle in. She wasn’t going to have any of that but the husband finally grew a little spine and told his wife after spending all morning at it, maybe they should take my offer. I moved off a little ways to let them bicker it out and talked to a few of the other folks coming in to see what was up.
Just about the time I was heading for my truck to leave the husband hollered at me and said they would like any help they could get. I walked back over and got there just in time to hear the girl saying I damned sure wasn’t going to ride her horse. I pointed over the corral fence to the north pasture where a horse had her head over the fence watching the stock and said “what about her” indicating a strawberry roan mare the old man had kept at the home place. The mare was somewhere around fifteen years and though I hadn’t ridden her I had petted her up a time or two in the past when I had dropped by. From the way the old man talked about her, she had been a pretty good cutting horse.
The girl dismissed the mare with a toss of her head and said she was going to have that old nag hauled off for slaughter by the first person that would take her. I asked her if she was really going to just get rid of the horse and she said yes. I told her I would trade helping them for the mare and it was a deal. The girl feeling she needed to get a last dig in said I’d have to ride her bareback because they didn’t have any more tack left after selling it all. Imagine that, move to a working cattle ranch and get rid of all the tack. As far as riding bareback, that was no trouble for me as us kids had grown up riding bareback.
In those days I always carried a rawhide hackamore behind the seat so I went over, got it and called the horse. She walked down the fence to me and took the hackamore with no trouble. Back then I was pretty limber and with a light spring I was astride of her. I could feel the excitement in the mare as soon as we moved through the gate into the pasture. She was wanting to work. I rode her in a zig zag a few times to make sure she would respond to my instructions and then turned to head for the cattle. Everyone started to fan out and I said no, just stay back for a few minutes.
The mare and I worked our way down and around the herd and with a gentle nudge here and there started the cows in the direction of the corrals. As we got closer to the corral the cattle started trying to break out and turn back. In just a couple of moments I could tell the horse knew her job better than me and I was just getting in her way. So I gave her her head and just sat back trying to move with her. She had an easy gait and sitting on her was like sitting in a rocking chair and when a cow went to turn out she could turn on a dime and give you back nine cents change. That mare had forgotten more about working cattle than I ever learned. She knew what those cows were going to do before they did and not once did one get away from her. She had the whole bunch up and through the gate in about twenty minutes and I never lifted a hand to the reins once.
When the gate swung shut all the folks that had been in the field when I got there gave a little cheer and clapped a few times. They were telling me what a great job I did and everything and how impressed they were. That mare sure made me look good.
The girl was so damned mad at me and that old horse making her and her horse look bad that fire was shooting from her eyes. She was making talk that she had changed her mind about keeping the mare and I sure wasn’t going to get in a fight over a horse and started to put her away but the husband up and surprised me a second time. “No, you’re not keeping the horse, you made a deal and you’re going to stick to it.” he told her. Well there was some hope for that boy after all.
I backed my truck up to the loading ramp and she walked in like she knew she was going home and we took our leave of those folks. I used her for a cutting and sorting horse around the home corals and she was one of the best damn deals I ever made, even considering her age.
I had this other mare, a golden palomino with white dapples across her hind quarters named Toffee. She was five eighths Quarter Horse and three eighths Arabian and the fastest horse I ever rode bar none. About the only problem I had with her is she stopped hard on her front legs. I tried everything to break her of that habit, even quicking her front hooves but nothing helped.
I’m firmly convinced she saved my life one time. It was during spring thaw and streams everywhere were raging. The rivers were out of their banks and several mudslides had occurred in the area. I was sent out to check for stock along the breaks above the river with the idea we would try to start them drifting towards safer areas. We rode into this one swale and had gone no more than thirty yards when the hillside above us started to slip. In the blink of an eye we were engulfed up to her withers in mud the consistency of wet cement. My weight with the additional drag of my legs and the stirrups was making it so she couldn’t do anything but flounder around. I slid my legs off to her sides and kicked the stirrups loose and she more or less swam out from under me in the mud.
I was thrashing around trying to figure out some way to get myself out but it was a losing battle and I kept sinking deeper. She was making a little headway with me off her back and I kept urging her to keep going. Maybe folks would find her and be able to backtrack her to me or my body. She only went a short distance and stopped to look back at me. About then a second wave of mud started to roll off the hillside and I was yelling at her to get her damn ass out of there. The mud hit her broadside and carried her close to a hundred feet towards the river. A couple of times she completely disappeared in the mud and I was sure we were both done for. When the mud slowed down her head popped back up and I started yelling at her again to get the hell out of there.
She struggled back upright and swam and clawed her way for about sixty or eighty feet towards the far side and then she stopped to look at me again, her nostril’s flared and her eyes wide. I’m screaming at her by now to save herself and get out of there. I’ll be damned if that mare didn’t turn around and come swimming through that mud right back at me. She paused for a second right beside me and as soon as my hand grabbed the apple she started dragging us both back the way we came. Eventually she started to get footing and pulled us both to solid ground. I was still hanging off the apple and covered in heavy mud from head to toe and so weak I could hardly stand. Toffee was trembling like a leaf in a hurricane from all her efforts. In my weakness I slowly slid down her side to a sitting position on the ground. Toffee knelt down and curled her body around me and rested her head in my lap. We sat there for the longest time with me softly stroking her head.
I finally got to my feet and got her up and we both started the long walk back to the home place. It was getting pretty late, way beyond when I should have been in when we hit the lane. Everyone was bunched up getting ready to come looking for us and they just stared with nary a word as we walked by. They could tell we had been through it and I suppose we looked a real sight with both of us covered in caked mud like we were. The boss told me to go get cleaned up and offered to take Toffee but I told him no, I would clean her up myself. It took me two hours to strip the gear off her, wash and curry her, straighten out her mane and tail, clean her feet and clean my saddle and tack. She got an extra ration of oats in her nose bag that night as a thank you.
Yep, I stared death in the face and was saved by my horse.
Another time that mare earned her keep was after my old man bought a new horse called Buckshot. We didn’t think anything about it at the time but the fellow that was selling him wouldn’t let anyone come to see him without an appointment.
Buckshot was a real nice looking papered buckskin stallion really set up well. He seemed friendly and gentle as all get out too. Dad liked the horse and after the third visit I rode along to pick him up. He walked right up the ramp into the stock truck like he had been doing it every day of his life. By the time we got him to dad’s place that story had changed and that horse was doing his damnedest to tear the sides off the racks. We got him unloaded and the horse basically went berserk every time we got in the corral with him. We finally came to the conclusion the guy selling him had been drugging him to make him appear gentle. Dad was ready to put him down but I said let’s see if we can use him before we turn him into coyote bait.
Once you got a halter on him he would settle down some but the only way we could saddle and bridle him was to put him in a chute, halter him, blindfold him, tie him to a hitching post and then get the saddle on him. We had to put the bridle on over the halter, there just wasn’t any other way. Dad and I were the only two that could handle him handle him for riding. I will say once you got him saddled and rode the kinks out he could work stock pretty good but you had to be ready for a rodeo each time. The first few times I rode him, before he figured out I was boss, was so rough that by the time I got him topped off I was bleeding from the nose.
Well we had him saddled one day just getting ready to go work some stock when a gal relative showed up. In her mind she was god’s gift to horsemen and was going to show us how it was done. Before we could stop her she swung up on his back and made the mistake of giving him a little head. He took the bit in his teeth and they were gone. They jumped two fences and I don’t know how she managed to stay on because there was lot of air under her ass both times. Even at a distance we could see that she had completely lost control of him and the direction they were headed was real trouble as it was nothing but broken rock buttes, drop offs and sinkholes that could swallow a tank.
I had already saddled Toffee before we started messing with Buckshot and she was ground hitched by the corral. In two strides I was on her and we took off. Dad hollered he would open the gates but Toffee beat him to the fence and was over it in a flash. Any other horse, with the lead Buckshot had and I wouldn’t have been able to catch up but Toffee could run like greased lighting. She hit the ground full out and I just let her go and leaned down over her neck. We cleared the second fence like it wasn’t there and then with a gentle nudge from me with a boot heel she really opened up. The drum of her hooves was a continuous thunder and the ground streamed by in a blur. She was so stretched out her belly was so tight to the ground I could have reached out and grabbed the grass. Right before they got to some real rough ground we caught up and grabbing the side of Buckshot’s bridle I started turning Toffee in a big loop. She pushed up against Buckshot and he had no choice but to turn as well or end up in a tumbled mess. We made a big, almost full circle before I could begin bringing him down. Once we got stopped the girl got off him and was standing there shaking and sobbing with tears running down her face. In some respects I don’t blame her for being scared, but she was a damned fool for getting on him in the first place.
I offered to let her ride Toffee back and I would take Buckshot but she had enough of horses for awhile and elected to walk. About six months later a fellow saw Buckshot while picking up some heifers and bought him to stand stud so that problem went away and no, we didn’t drug him first.
They say good stuff happens in threes so I need to tell you about Cochise. He was a Morgan and Quarter Horse gelding. I don’t know how much of each but from his conformity he was mostly Morgan, in other words he was built like a brick shit house. He had the widest back of any horse I ever owned. I even had to get a special saddle for him. I used to climb up on him bareback and go to sleep up there while he grazed and never once fell off, it was like laying on a bed. He was steady too, you could shoot off his back and I did many a time. He was so gentle when I needed a parade horse he’s the one I used. Kids could crawl under his belly and between his legs and he would just stand there and give it no mind, about the most he would do is ask for an ear scratch.
Where Toffee was fast Cochise was strong. If you could have roped a tornado I believe he would have held it in place. While my dad could toss a loop and make a lariat do all kinds of fancy tricks, I have to tell you I was not some roping wonder. I could toss a loop but it wasn’t my strong suit. My usual form was just to ride up beside an animal and drop a loop over its head avoiding the fancy stuff.
We were working on bringing in stock from the scab rock country one time and there was this big assed bull that must have weighed twenty two hundred pounds if he weighed an ounce. He had kept a small bunch of cows from being rounded up the last couple of seasons because no one could get them out of the breaks and they ended up being a real owly bunch. Cochise and I got on their trail and I’ll be damned if that horse didn’t manage to bring them up out of the rocks to the holding corrals. Someone saw us coming and opened a gate at the end of the drift fence and we pushed them right in like we been bringing them up every day.
As soon as that bull realized he had been penned he went ape shit. The corrals had railroad tie posts set in solid rock with two by fourteens on both sides and they were nine feet tall. He hit that fence at a run and with a lunge got half way over it. The top boards broke under his weight and then he was on the other side and taking off like someone lit a fire under his tail.
Cochise and I were still outside the corral and more or less right in his path. I was pretty full of myself back in those days so I stupidly decided that rather than let him go I would rope him. As he ran by I shook out a loop over his head and took a two turn dally with a loose lock wrap around the neck of the saddle horn. Cochise knew what was coming and that horse squatted down and I could feel him dig his back feet in. Just about then the thought was starting to form in the back of my mind that maybe dropping a loop on that bull might not have been the smartest idea but before I could decide to act on it the bull hit the end of the rope and it was like we were hitched to the back of a runaway train. The sound of the back cinch hitting Cochise sounded like a gun shot and the lariat raised a smoke around the horn and ran through my glove so fast it burned leather.
Now you might think that it was all over and that bull was going to get his freedom but about then I had instinctively pulled down on the lock wrap without thinking about it and that bull hadn’t counted on Cochise welding himself to the earth like he was. All the slack gave out of the lariat and he was flipped to his side like you would toss a quarter. I looked down and could see skid marks where all four of Cochise’s hooves had slid on the ground. The bull got up to have another go at his freedom and Cochise busted him on his ass again. He was bellowing and blowing snot and twisting trying to back away but Cochise just sat there kind of swaying every time the bull would hit the end of the rope. Pretty soon Cochise got up on all fours and I guided him to start walking backward towards the corral dragging the bull with him and me hanging on to the end of that rope for dear life. Every time the bull would pull back harder Cochise would drop his head and dig in a little more. The feeling of power coming from his muscles was incredible. In an even up tug o war I suppose the bull would have won but he was spending so much effort fighting the rope he wasn’t fighting the horse. Cochise drug that bull up to a hitching post like a tug moving a freighter and we took several turns around it. A couple other guys heel roped the bull and that pretty much ended his rampage. Damn, that horse was strong.
He did surprise me one time though and moved quicker than I ever thought he could. We were high up in the mountains following an old trace to a crossing in a saddle on a ridge line. There was this flowering shrub my mom called ocean spray that covered all the open spots. It was in full bloom and its sickly sweet smell overpowered everything. We were making headway up the trail and just ahead of us the trail dipped down around an old lightning struck snag. Just as Cochise stepped into the bottom of the dip a black bear did the same thing coming down the trail the opposite way and they came nose to nose. Well Cochise was having none of that and did a one eighty under me so fast that I was still facing up the trail and in the air and he was a hundred yards gone. Thankfully the bear had the same reaction in the other direction and about the time I hit the ground all I could see of the bear was his backside heading for the ridge. I dusted myself off and went down the trail a ways to collect Cochise and he said to hell with that idea and moved down the trail a little further. Each time I would catch up with him he would move off down the trail a little further. When we finally reached the valley bottom he let me climb back aboard but by that time I was so disgusted with him I just headed home. I think that was his plan all along because there was no way he was going to go back up that trail where that bear was.
There was a little snippet of a girl that just adored Cochise and hung off him every time we were around. In a way I suppose I was a little sweet on her but she was just a touch too young for me to be more than a big brother to her. Anyway, just before I left that country I rode him over there one day and turned him into her folks pasture. The look of pure delight on her face was pay enough. I wasn’t even out the gate before she was out there with both arms wrapped around his neck and her face buried in his cheek, crying tears of happiness. The girl’s mom had come to the door and I tossed a wave in her direction and walked down their drive with my saddle slung over my shoulder. I would image he died pampered well beyond his normal years there.
My experiences with my best dogs always seemed to be tinged with sadness and it was the same way with Pete. I mentioned him up above. I was sparkin’ my soon to be wife then and had gone over to see her one morning after feeding. It was full on winter and I was dressed accordingly and wearing horsehide chaps that went down past the tops of my boots as well. She was staying with some friends and when I pulled into their place she came out followed by the two of them.
About then this little snippet of a brown pup came jetting out from under the trailer skirting, rebounded off each of them and came my way. The husband had found the dog on the side of the road in a snow bank and carried him home. They called him peeper because he wouldn’t come out to anyone, just peek out from under the trailer at them.
I knelt down and the dog came over and climbed right up in my lap. At that very moment he became my dog. Peeper was no name for a dog to carry so I change it to Pete. He rode home with me and became one of the best dogs I ever knew. He was a puddle mutt with a strong hint of spaniel in him. A few days after he claimed me I took off to break ice out of culverts and ditches. I kicked him out in the yard and told him to stay I was going to work.
I was driving a ranch truck with a set of stock racks on it. I’m about a mile from the home place and had just stopped to clean out a blocked culvert when I looked back down to road to see a little shape hauling ass in my direction with ears flapping in the breeze a hundred miles an hour. It was Pete and I was pretty upset that he hadn’t stayed home. I tossed him in the back of the truck with a strong ass chewing and went to work breaking out the ice. It was a pretty hard task and took me awhile to get done. I walked to the back of the truck and momentarily forgetting that Pete was back there tossed the shovel in. I heard this loud clunk and a yip. Realizing what I had done I stepped around back and looked in. The shovel had caught him just above his right eye and blood was dribbling down his face. Damn I felt bad. I gathered him up in my arms, moved up to the cab of the truck and wiped the blood away with an old piece of burlap. Oh that dog was smart. He started milking that injury for all it was worth. Before long he was nestled up against my right leg with his front paws hanging off the front of the seat. Every time I went to get out of the truck to clean another culvert he would give out a pitiful whine and look up at me with big tears in his eyes and I would go to feeling bad all over again.
At the house he ate pretty much whatever I was having but his favorite meal was elk steak, rice with butter and yellow corn. He claimed an old flight jacket I had as his bedding and I came home one day to find he had drug it upstairs and up onto my bed. There was none of that sleeping downstairs when I was sleeping upstairs.
He rode everywhere with me and his second favorite thing to do was hang his head out the passenger window getting high off all the smells flowing by, of course his favorite thing to do was lie on the seat nestled up against my leg.
Things were heating up between me and the wife to be by then and she was running around the country with me quite a lot, and Pete, he got relegated to the passenger side of the seat with my gal sitting next to me. That was not going to fly. Pete jumped down on the floor boards, moved over by my feet and started pushing his nose between our legs. He didn’t stop until he had wedged himself between us. Once he had her scooted over out of his place he flopped down with his head draped over the front of the seat and the world was right again, at least by his standards
One time we were driving through the mountains and he was hanging out the passenger window. The roads had recently been improved from one lane gravel to one lane paved with turnouts every so often. I was watching Pete’s antics hanging out the window and was following the edge of the pavement out the corner of my eye when I realized I had followed the edge of one of the pullouts and was heading straight into the ditch. I yanked the wheel to the left to get back on the road and Pete was ejected from the passenger window.
I slammed on the breaks just knowing I had run him over but he came limping up and crawled in the drivers side door before I could get out to look for him. I thought maybe he learned his lesson but we hadn’t gone even a mile before he had his back legs on the armrest with the rest of his body hanging out the window, ears blowing in the wind.
He was with me for several years and I have a books worth of stories of his antics. We had left the country and moved into town to give city living a try and I had opened an equipment repair shot. I was working late one night and when I came out of the shop it was to a pea soup fog. Pete was nowhere to be found so I whistled for him. It didn’t matter what he was doing, if he heard my whistle he came running to me at a full tilt. He was just crossing the road when some jackass blew a stop light in the fog and ran him down.
I was a lot older than when I buried Pebbles but I still had tears in my eyes digging his grave too – Damn dogs.
Well I suppose I ought to explain the green grass shower title of this of this train wreck. In the spring when stock gets on pasture after a winter of dry feed the change in diet can really wreck havoc on them and their stool can turn to the consistency of water. When the pressure builds they can splatter things a considerable distance away.
I was working on a ranch and to make a little side money I was selling milk from a couple of cows I had. One was a Jersey and the other a Guernsey, which really doesn’t have any bearing on the story. The boss had a nephew come out to stay for a few weeks to get a taste of country life. The boys mom was something like fourteen years younger than the boss and had been a city girl her whole life and the nephew was a city boy through and through. He was also a petulant little guy and after a few days of his whining the boss couldn’t take it any more and it fell to me to kind of show the kid the ropes and generally keep him out of trouble.
He was having a dickens of a time adjusting to the ranch schedule and after a string of days of having to go up to the main house to roll him out of bed for chores I was getting tired of him myself. This one particular morning he was being a real ass about it, grumbling the whole morning as he tagged along and I had my fill.
Generally when I brought the cows in for milking I would let them stand around for a bit in the barn yard before putting the in the stanchion. This would give them a chance to take care of business before I washed them up. On this morning I just hustled them right in and locked the neck bars right off the bat. They didn’t care, there was grain to be had.
The kid had never seen a cow being milked before and was actually showing a little interest in what was taking place but I was too pissed at him to abort my intent. He kept crowding in tighter and tighter to see everything. I had my head buried in the cows side and could both feel and hear her guts really getting wound up. About then I told him the cow was getting bothered by him standing there that close and he needed to move back and over a ways and indicated with a wave of my hand where to move to.
I don’t know what it is about cows but it seems as if when the shits hits one cow another one in close proximity will fire up just a moment later and that’s what happened this morning. Just as he moved over the cow I was on cut loose. I knew what was coming and had already grabbed the milk pail and started to turn away.
He took it full on and was splattered almost full length. He staggered back a step and a half and just then the other cow cut loose. If he hadn’t moved she would have missed him completely but as it was she soaked down from the other side. He was trying to decide on a course of action but with getting hit from both sides he didn’t know which way to turn. He ended up with manure from head to toe and had taken a full shot to the face and hair. He’s standing there, his eyes two white orbs in a sea of green cow shit, mouth wide open in the beginnings of a scream, manure dripping off his hair and draining down his front. The image of him standing there, eyes as wide as silver dollars and mouth agape was absolutely priceless and to this day I wish I’d had a camera to get a picture of him.
The shock to his system was pretty severe and my laughing like a damned fool so hard I was bent double didn’t help matters. The boss, hearing the scream came over to see what happened and when he came in the barn he lost it. We had a good laugh at the kids expense and the boss is the one that coined the phrase getting a green grass shower.
For some reason the kid packed up and went home the next day.
Well I better wrap this up. I’m abusing our host and probably boring all of you to death.
ps for those well wishing me in my battle with the crud, I’m mostly back on my feet. Thanks.