Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Good Dog Duke - Then and Now

Duke - October, 1999

Duke - February, 2012

The top photo is one of the few of Duke as a puppy.  He was about eight months old.  The bottom photo is The Good Dog Duke now.
Duke and Jake are both adopted from the Topeka Helping Hands Humane Society.  Adopting Duke was easy.  I had to fight for Jake.

Live long and prosper, Ol' Duke!

Monday, February 20, 2012

A Tale of Two Dogs

Jake and Duke on the way to the barn.

Duke waiting for the baby.

The Good Dog Duke and the youngster heading for the house - Duke loves to see how close he can blast past without actually running into me.  He is teaching Jake the same game.

Duke and Jake, almost father and son.

Jake, after his first puppy shot.
I named the puppy Jake.  It is not fancy but dogs are not particular in what human beings call them. 

Duke, true to his nature, accepts this irritating new addition with good grace, though his feelings are  hurt if Jake seems to get too much attention.  The happiest time in anyone's day at Spirit Creek Farm is the trek to the barn at sunrise.  Everyone is happy for a brand new day - dogs, horse and woman.

It is early to tell how good a dog Jake will be, but the other day I got a good indication.  The neighbors were moving a herd of cattle to another pasture down the road past my house.  I did not see Duke, so I called him.  I did not want him (or the puppy) to bark at the cattle and cause trouble.  Duke and Jake were both at the top of the drive way quietly watching the cattle and cowboys on horses go by.  No barking.  When I called Duke, both dogs came running.  If Jake remembers that is the way he is supposed to behave, it will be a great thing.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

When Humans and Nature Collide

The Windmill that Saved a Tree

Will Future Archeologists Be Baffled By Such a Mess?
The Windmill May Have Toppled Some Time Ago If Not For The Tree

This was an intriguing sight worthy of committing tresspass.  Only a few times in my life have I walked onto someone's property without permission.  If you grow up the granddaughter of farmers and ranchers, you learn that cardinal rule early.  While it is basically good country manners, it is an issue of safety.  No one wants a rear-end full of buck shot.  Because this tree grows along a busy Kansas highway, and it was full daylight,  and no cattle were present, the worst that might have happened to me was a cussing from the owner.  I escaped all verbal and physical assault.

The tree must have survived its seedling and sapling stages by escaping the prairie fires.  Whenever water was pumped here, the livestock would have kept the vegetation trampled down, preventing fire from coming close enough to burn the tree.  Now the mature tree holds up the windmill.

No one has the time or the money to remove an old rusting windmill.  I wish that along with our great American work ethic and rugged individualism, we also held a profound respect for the beauty of the land we "own".  Then, there would never be such depressing sights as this.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Clouds In the Valley

Mill Creek Valley Full of Clouds
Point and Click at 75 MPH

Sometimes on the way to work in the morning, the valleys east of Buffalo Mound are full of clouds.  It must be the warm waters of Mill Creek and the Kansas River responsible for this beautiful sight.  Naturally, I am always in a hurry to get to work, and it against the law to stop except for emergencies, but I discovered my new camera can take acceptable photos at 75 mph.

When I see Kansas at sunrise like this, I consider that before human beings ever set eyes on these hills, even before the tipis of the Plains peoples were ever staked to this soil, the valleys were filling with clouds in exactly this manner.

What if the waters were pure again? What if there were no roads, no interstates cutting through the natural landscape?  No fields, no invasive plants, no trees, no human beings?  What if all man-made noises were to cease? 

The beauty of the earth will endure beyond our selfish and destructive sojourn here.  I am certain of it.
North from Buffalo Mound

Monday, February 6, 2012

Stinky Drool Face

My daughter with the new puppy.

This photo was taken Saturday, the first few moments after the new puppy's arrival at the farm.

He is a cute little guy.  I have been calling him Stinky Drool Face, which is totally inappropriate!  I am having a difficult time coming up with this little guy's name.  The shelter people called him Aladdin, but that does not seem to be his name, either.  No matter.  Eventually, I will know what to call him.

Duke is so happy to have someone to play with, though at 80 pounds he is too big to play unsupervised.  Before long the new pup will be big enough and strong enough to play and they are going to have a great time together. 

I have spent a long time looking for another dog to be Duke's companion and to eventually take over the farm duties.  Duke is 13, an old guy.  This last year he has aged the most.  His face is almost entirely white.  Though he still flops over on his back in the prairie for a great stretch and back scratch, and he can still outrun me, that is not saying much.  His eyes have the blue cast of old age, but no cataracts.  He cannot always bound up the front stairs with his normal exuberance and I have not seen him tear out after a rabbit for a long time.  Duke still dutifully makes the round to remark his territory every day after the coyotes and other unknown wild beasts have been prowling through the night.  He still barks to keep me informed, but he deserves to take it a bit easier now.  He deserves a comfortable retirement, and to have a younger dog take over his heavy work.

The three of us made the first trip to the barn yesterday together.  We had to wait for the baby to sit down and rest a time or two.  Coming down the hill, I was struck by how much this pup looks like Duke at that age.  They are so similar in body shape and coloring - they looked like father and son trotting down the hill together.  (As Duke aged, the German Shepherd coloring on his face disappeared.)  If this little dog is even half as good as Duke, then I will count myself lucky.  The Good Dog Duke's paw prints are going to be too big for any pup to fill.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Strange Skies

Sky Graffiti

Strange Weather Makes for Strange Cloudscapes

The day before the weather shift that would bring in the long awaited rains.  The contrails lingered for hours and hours in the sky.  It was beautiful.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

We Grew Old Together....

When I moved to Topeka in my very early 20's, finding a doctor before I needed one never occurred to me. On the fourth day of intensifying pain and the escalating fever of a raging strep throat infection, a moment of alarming clarity prompted me to go directly to the emergency room at the nearest hospital. There I met the man with whom I have had the longest, most enduring male relationship of my life: Dr. O. 

By the time I went for medical attention, the infection had almost reached the tipping point. The young emergency room doctor was brusque and his demeanor was quite stern. I feebly tried to joke with him, but he ignored all humor and made sure I knew how ill I was, in his professional opinion. I thought he really needed to smoke a joint and listen to some Santana. 

It was strep throat that brought us together again a couple of years later. Dr. O was no longer an emergency room doctor but an internal medicine doctor in family practice. I recognized his name in the phone book and was lucky to be accepted as a new patient. Aside from the OB-GYN and a few specialists, I never strayed to another doctor's office. 

For over three decades, Dr. O was the go-to guy. His professional face never changed from that same stern, no-nonsense expression. He was always so serious that I just could not help kidding around with him. I usually had to explain, "It's a joke." But I never, ever had to sit in his waiting room for more than a couple of minutes. I rarely had to wait more than five minutes for him in the examination room. His nurses and staff were excellent, professional, on time, and they dealt with the insurance companies like elite ninjas! I once wrote a thank-you to Dr. O and his staff for the excellent organization and finely tuned management of their office. I once told Dr. O he had ruined me from ever seeing another doctor. He almost smiled, then caught himself. 

He did not like it when I disobeyed his orders, but he did not seem to take it personally. My most serious rebellion was not going in for emergency gall bladder surgery many, many years ago. Last January when I finally had the gall bladder removed, I believe he was quite pleased that his original diagnosis at last came to fruition, even though 14 years passed between Dr. O's recommendation and the actual surgery. 

He was always a careful, respectful and excellent doctor. He mentioned several times I was not a "frequent flier", which was true, but still my file was very thick simply from the amount of time I had been his patient. In the last ten years or so of our relationship he had lightened up considerably and actually smiled at some of my jokes. He even cracked one or two of his own. (Santana and pot? Maybe!) 

I have to say, I took our relationship for granted. One day it occurred to me that he might actually retire.  I asked if he was planning to retire any time soon, because I was getting to the age I was probably going to be needing him a lot more. He actually chuckled and replied that he had three kids in college, so he was not going anywhere. I was relieved. 

But all good things must come to an end. Dr. O retired in December of 2011. I did not get to tell him goodbye or thank you for all of those years. When I attempted to get set up with another doctor in his clinic, the woman on the phone was such a pain in the ass that I finally hung up on her. Apparently, Dr. O's staff retired, too. 

I found a group of women doctors practicing family medicine and luckily for me, one of the doctors was accepting new patients. I met Dr. R last week in my initial patient interview. I like her a lot. She commented on the length of time I had been Dr. O's patient. I sighed and said "Yes, we grew old together....". She laughed! She knew it was a joke. We are going to get along just fine. She did not know Dr. O, but mentioned she was getting a lot of his patients. (I must not be the only one who could not get past the dragon lady!) In discussing my overweight status, I deadpanned that I no longer looked cool riding my Harley. Her instant response was "EVERYBODY looks cool riding a Harley!" That made me laugh.
To kill some time while waiting in the new, foreign examination room, I took out my camera to review the photos I have recently taken. That is how I was able to record the following horrific images:
Profound torture can and does happen here...

Innocent enough.... until I saw this:
No one wants to see this combination!