Mutton Busting

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    I love Mutton Busting. If we would have had sheep when I was a kid, my bros and I would have ridden the poor buggers to death. We rode anything we could wrap our legs around.  Sheep have so many kid-friendly attributes. They are short, accessible, perfect for latching on to, and the fall is much closer to the ground. If they step on you, it’s a bruise versus a broken bone.

I love animals, so when the chance presented itself, I invested in a small herd of montedale sheep. Fred and I wrestled, sheared, doctored, and lambed the wooly darlings for several years in Upper Michigan.    

Sheep are adorable. Their idiocy has a certain, commonsense-defying charm to it. For example: mending fence one day, I parked the pick-up close to my work-site. Their curiosity soon had them grazing around me and the truck. The dog and Isaac, goofing around, startled them. They began to run. Being sheep, they followed each other … around and around and around the truck. The three of us stopped what we were doing and watched them in amazement. It was a sheep-carousel.

It was hilarious, until their eyes were bulging and their tongues were hanging out. Amazed that they didn’t stop, I let them run a few unnecessary laps before sending Isaac and the dog to break the loop. They ran off (together of course) and huddled in a hot, little, wool-covered corner; panting like they were going to die. 

Isaac did not share my affection for our little, white woolies. The poor kid got dragged around the corral for nine months one year, trying to train “Lanolin” for 4-H. It pretty much clinched his conviction that he was not a sheep man. He did make good money on her, in the end, however. His inspired, pitiful plea had potential buyers digging deep in their pocket books to rescue the poor lad.

Sale letter

I love mutton busting, and the memories it brings back. 

Do you have a yearly event that you enjoy simply because it brings back precious memories?

If so, please share them. 

Write on, 

Ani

Bull Run

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I grew up in the Dairy State. Holsteins are the milk cow of choice for that area. They are big boned, meaty bovines, that produce massive  amounts of milk. Years of breeding has brought up the butterfat, making them even more valuable. The black and white cow is part of the Wisconsin culture.

Loving farming and working with livestock, I worked at different dairies over the years. I appreciated that most farmers treated their animals well.

The downside, in those days, was the hazard of handling bulls, but as the years passed more and more farmers switched to artificial insemination. A few farmers still ran their own bulls, but they were few and far between. Every family in the area had a story where a bull killed someone they knew, or knew of.

The female of the bovine species is usually gentle. Many come home to be milked when you call them. Buckets of grain are reward enough to bring them in for milking time; unless they are out on new pasture. Then, you have to go get them.

This was one of those times. The day before we had run a single, electric wire, on step-in fence posts, around a new field. The “girls” were  oblivious to my calls, so the dog and I headed out to bring them home for the evening milking.

The bull and I noticed each other about the same time.

This farmer had a bull, but he seldom let him run with the cows, unless he noticed one was in heat. Protocol was: he’d tell me if the bull was out and I would use the old, blue tractor to get the cows.

This was the day it had slipped his mind.

That bull and I looked at each other for a long minute. When he started to trot towards me, I lit out. That electric wire wouldn’t even slow him down. The five-strand, barb-wire, line fence might … slow him down.

Now let me tell you, I come from a long line of fine fence builders. You haven’t seen anal until you’ve seen a Wisconsin farmer building a line fence. They are straight and tight; so tight that farmers brag about bulls bouncing off of them.

This was not one of those line fences, but I was hoping the old boy might get tangled up in the barb-wire, cut a tendon or something, anything to get his mind off of me.

I doubted I’d make it to the line fence, but y’know, in a pinch you gotta do what you gotta do. I’m not fast and that line fence was pretty far away. I gave it all I had, expecting to feel the earth shake as that two-ton devil closed in on me. His breath on my heels lit a fire under my feet.

Time ceased to exist. What seemed like an eternity later, I found myself standing on the other side of that poor excuse for a line fence, no idea how I got there. I whipped around to see where the bull was.

My knees were like water.  I bent over, putting my hands on them to steady them, trying to catch my breath. If that fence didn’t hold him or turn him, I was toast.

The field was empty.  My heart hammered in my chest. What the hell?

Where was that bull? I looked near, first, then expanded my horizons;  saw the cows. Looking past them, I saw the bull disappearing into the woods, chasing the dog. (God, I love dogs.)

I melted against an old, wobbly post with relief. I had never run so fast in my life. After a long while, I recovered. I looked around to see if anyone had seen me fleeing my own imagination.

With a huge sigh of relief, I walked up to get the old, blue tractor.

P.S. Don’t worry, the dog was home in time for supper.

 

 

Close Encounters

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I walked up to Madison’s City Square, to meet a friend. It was early spring, early Sunday. I’d been under the weather lately, but couldn’t put my finger on why.  I sighed, resigning myself to the cold mundaneness of day to day life.

Walking with my head down, I sensed a large person coming toward me. Out of my peripheral vision, I could see he was huge. I avoided looking directly at him, but glanced around to see if there were any people outside who could come to my aid, if I needed it.

The streets were empty.  Early Sunday mornings are not known for their pedestrian traffic or outside activities. It was one of the reasons I was out walking. Regret wormed its way through my gut. I could cross the street. How rude would that be? Besides, there was no way I would outrun such a big guy.

I pursed my lips and pressed on, not making eye contact. When I was within a few feet from him, I glanced up. He was big, but beautiful. My two second glimpse of him captured a smile that shot through me, casting light into all my dark places!

Dazed, I dropped my eyes. His smile, erasing any memory I had of what he looked like, carried a message of hope to my heart that warmed every element of my being. Though at the time, I could not have put that into words.

As soon as he was past me, I turned my head to try and recapture his image. I wanted to remember.

There was no one there.

I stopped and turned around, searching everywhere. The only movement was the gentle breeze, moving new leaves.

Forty years later, I can finally put my experience into words. When I feel the cold mundaneness of life closing in, that smile still warms me.

Have you ever had a brief, but close encounter that is unforgettable?

Write on,

Ani

 

 

Overlapping the Arts

Art travels well with its different venues: writing and music, painting and sculpting,  photography and design. Creative brains find innumerable ways to express themselves.

I like to sing and dance and draw, in the last couple of weeks I’ve dug out my guitar and plink away, seeking the place of my last departure. I photograph nature and study others’ photographs. I read every time I get a chance. I love to tell stories and use props to act out the drama.

But my first passion is to write a good story …

Are these other activities a distraction, or do they feed my creativity?

My first three stories were written in relative silence. My characters led me down their paths of adventure and I happily followed, enjoying their exploits with them.

I find a variety of music inspiring and I can follow a line of inspiration for two or three minutes, but suddenly, I find myself on an entirely different, often opposing, sound track and I lose the muse. Where’d she go?

So, who practices a craft with music? Do you pick music that matches the piece you are working on (lest you be working with love and violence slips in from the shadows?) Do you replay the same sound track over and over, to maintain theme and atmosphere? Or, with practice, have you learned to ignore the change and run with the muse?

Share if you dare. I am curious.

Demons & Peeves

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We all have demons and peeves. We battle them continually. Reading and writing are unique ways, or tools we use, to wage our war. Naming our demons reduces their power. Sharing our tactics and encouraging one another are also tools.

One of my demons is depression. (Did you know that depression is becoming a national epidemic?) Recovery programs have been amazing tools for me. Today I signed up to become a facilitator for a Depression Recovery Program for my area.

Our battles are never won, but we can hold our ground when we have the skills we need to fight. Why would we not share our tactics and tools in the battle we wage? There is strength in numbers … but only if there is acceptance and sharing among us.

The names may vary – depression, alcoholism, codependence, drugs, (plug in your demon here) – but the enemies are judgment, ignorance and isolation.

We are not alone. If we pull together, in recognition and grace, we can rise above the darkness that threatens to suck us under … and hold the ground we have won.

Never give up.

Ani

Mother’s Day

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I never understood my mum’s love until I held my own little bundle of potential in my arms. As I looked down at that precious little soul, I didn’t doubt for a minute that I would love him forever. I marveled at the newfound depth of love I had for this little creature and decided, no matter what he did, he would always be precious.

I marveled, then and now, that maybe … this is how God feels about us ….

Write on,

Ani