Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Misery of Summer Gives Way to Better Days

Ring Around the Sun All Day

Tiny Bits of Yellow Add Up To...

...Acres of Yellow

The Glowing Gold of Autumn

Despite the Drought, the Prairie Displays Her Beauty

Happy Immigrants.  Notice the Cacti in Bloom!

The rain continually avoids Wabaunsee County, or falls in a few drops for a minute.  Several times I have been driving through falling rain in Topeka, only to drive right out of it, coming home to dry and dusty roads.  Despite the drought, the prairie has nonchalantly dressed herself in autumn flamboyance.  You would think the tall grass evolved to withstand drought - if you believed in evolution, that is.

It was a difficult summer with many days over 100 degrees.  I worried the well was going dry during the hottest days because the water coming from the garden hose was milky and the animals appeared to not want to drink it.  The cooler weather cleared the water.       

The lack of rain has caused much suffering for human beings and other mammals.  One morning I noticed Wally was lacking his normal joie de vivre. Subdued but still eating, drinking and getting around the pasture alright.  It was subtle.  As I watched, I saw that he did not pick up his hind hooves with each step, instead dragging the front edge of his hooves on the ground.  He seemed to be in some pain in his hind quarters.  The second day I called the vet.  He first examined Wally's hooves, squeezing them with a big pair of metal pliers.  He pushed and pulled on Wally's hind legs, leaning on his hips - even pulling his tail!  Wally was a perfect gentleman.  (I was thinking of a certain red mare being examined like that...)  At last the vet said Wally likely had a tinge of arthritis in his hips but I just knew that was not the problem.  I asked about a slight swelling along the very bottom of Wally's belly.  That is when a large lump far up in the groin area was discovered.  Then the diagnosis was a very bad bruise and Ginger was named as the culprit.  I know it is hard to believe, but I was certain Ginger had nothing to do with it.  We had to go on the evidence.  Anyway, how could a guy who successfully completed eight years of veterinarian training possibly know more than me?

After five days of 'bute, an anti-inflammatory/pain reliever, a second vet visit followed by two weeks of horse antibiotics, and no change for the better or worse, I was quite worried, afraid Wally had cancer or something like that.  I sought the advice of another vet.  Then came the awful morning when Wally was walking with much difficulty, clearly in pain.  It was the Sunday morning of Labor Day weekend.  I did not want to call the vet out on a holiday.  I know it is his profession and he understands animals do not follow our holiday schedules, but since Wally was still eating, drinking and slowly getting around the pasture, I decided to wait one more day.  If  there was no change on Monday, I would call at the break of day.  Mercifully that night the large and painful abscess finally broke open, giving Wally great relief.  He was immediately better, walking without any apparent pain. He has improved steadily each day, but it has only been in the last week that Wally has returned to his normal high spirits. 

Now we know what afflicted Wally.  Due to the drought, a particular bacteria found in the soil somehow causes large abscesses in horses, normally on the chest.  It is commonly known as pigeon breast fever.  My neighbor has two horses with it now.  Due to the sensitive place where Wally's abscess manifested, and the misdiagnosis, the normal treatment of applying hot compresses to draw the abscess so it can be lanced was not done.  I am thankful that Wally was tough enough to survive despite our human ignorance.  And Ginger has been vindicated.  

Now when I call the horses, Wally comes dancing, tossing his head and lifting his hooves by birthright of his long and noble genetic ancestry. His supple neck and the high plume of his beautiful tail transform him and he does not look anything at all like a "Wally".  And I am so very thankful he survived the drought. 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Missing the Rain

The pond at the corner is almost entirely gone but the heron still comes to stand in the last of the water every evening.  Surely there are no fish at all in the mud and the tiny circle of water cannot protect the bird from predators.  I guess to that bird it is home, and home is more important than food.

The prairie is full of blooming flowers, most of them yellow.  It is a constant source of delight to see the difference every year and in every season.  The prairie never looks the same.  It depends on rainfall, temperature and timing which plants bloom.  There were not many blue or purple flowers this year, but one spring there were blue and violet and purple flowers everywhere.  The blue flowers are delicate, needing rain and gentle conditions.  The yellow flowers thrive in drought and heat.  Ginger's pasture is full of a particular sunflower this fall but normally only a few of those plants blossom. 

The prairie is fine with this lack of rain, still green and growing, though the cattlemen might be worried about the quality of the grass.  I have noticed a few cows with ribs showing, which is not a common sight in these parts.   

Rain has come tantalizingly close many times this summer.  The remains of hurricane Isaac reached as far as Topeka, raining heavily one evening, but coming home, I quickly drove out of the rain into sunshine and not a single drop of Isaac rain fell at Spirit Creek.  Clouds have gathered and churned provocatively, but only a spattering of rain fell.  Twice it rained enough to leave water in the dog dishes, but not enough to quell the dust of the roads.

Having access to weather radar is not always a good thing.  Many times all of Wabaunsee County would be covered by yellow and green radar indications of rain, but no rain fell to the ground - a crushing disappointment.  Many times the storm clouds slipped around the county in an unlikely parting.  I have come to the conclusion the drought is due to someone wicked living in Wabaunsee County.  Not me, of course, but some other person whose evil and unholy deeds have caused the rain to pass us by.  But even if we were still allowed to burn witches at the stake, we could not burn anyone in Wabaunsee County because of the ban on open fires.  We will simply have to be patient.  Maybe the wicked person will move to Shawnee County.

Friday, September 7, 2012

The Gold Rush

If One Sunflower is Good...

Then a Thousand Sunflowers is Awesome!

What is more beautiful than sunflowers in the morning sun?

Quite possibly the world's only sunflower movie... and you saw it here first! 
(Turn down the sound.)

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Wally Lama

It took such a long time to find another horse after losing my dear Annie because I was waiting for the Wally Lama.  He is the one.  In the first place, Ginger lo-o-v-e-s Wally with all of her bossy little horse heart.  Of course, that does not mean she is necessarily nice to him.  He clears out with all speed, even to the point of walking backwards if need be to stay out of Ginger's reach.  I have never seen Ginger actually kick or bite Wally, but he is a peace-loving guy, and practical, choosing to let Miss Thing believe she rules the universe.  Wally knows if mama ain't happy, ain't no body happy.  Ginger's meanness toward him only applies to treats, food and water. She magnanimously allows Wally to breathe all the air he wants. 

In the second place, I l-o-v-e Wally with all my crazy old horse lady heart.  He has a "yummy" spirit.  I want to pet his velvet nose and rub his wise forehead, where surely the energetic pattern remains from the ancient, mysterious past when horses were unicorns.  He is kind of goofy and funny and the product of his Arabian genes, tossing his head and lifting his front hooves in alarm, ready to thunder away at the merest hint of alarm.  He is so much taller than I am, especially when he lifts his head to intently watch and listen for danger - like cows grazing in the next pasture over or a guy on a bicycle pedaling along the road.

Wally is also mysterious.  He survived being struck by lightning.  Human beings who survive lightning strikes sometimes become lightning shamans.  As they heal, they realize they are clairvoyant or clairaudient.  Some can see and hear spirits, and almost all become natural healers in one way or another.  I wonder if the same can happen to horses. 

Horses are naturally sensitive and empathic.  They have an inherently gentle and healing nature.  Once a human being experiences a horse as a fellow sentient traveler in life, it is almost impossible to want to dominate, ride or otherwise subjugate a horse.  It is important to me to simply love my horses as they are and for them to peacefully spend their days in my keeping.  It is a small gesture of gratitude in recognition of the enormous debt human beings owe to the horse.  We became "civilized" upon the backs and sacrifice of the horse nation.

Wally is no fool.  His previous owners told me that when inexperienced riders tried to ride Wally, he simply refused to move.  When experienced riders were called in to correct Wally, his answer was to only move backward.  No one had the time or the patience to convince Wally he is supposed to ride out at the bidding of human beings.  A dedicated trainer could turn Wally into a fine riding horse but Wally apparently believes in a different destiny for himself.  His choices eventually landed him in my life, so perhaps he knows exactly what he is doing.

Mysterious Wally
Post Script:  Ginger is actually far nicer to Wally than she ever was to Annie.  Both Ginger and Wally have spots along their necks where their manes are rubbed off because they spend so much time grooming one another.