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Thursday, October 27 2016

I stood in the road with my gun drawn and yelled at him, "This is why I can't wear pretty sandals to church!"

The dusty boots on my feet gave an apologetic shrug.  I stepped out of the fired bullet casings that were scattered in the dirt, climbed back into the truck, and turned the key off. Without the roar of the diesel engine the forest stood in silence, waiting to see what I'd do next.

When I retired from police work, I thought I could actually be normal, but like an ill-fitting coat, normal just doesn't hang well on me. We moved to a beautiful ranching community, joined a traditional country church, and thought we'd slide into the roles of normal people. Be just like everyone else. Who was I kidding? Here I was supposed to be on my way to choir practice at the church, but instead I was standing in the road like Matt Dillon, waiting for my Other Half to bring me another gun.

There were more bullets in the gun I had, but it's a good rule of thumb to never empty your last gun. So instead I snatched up the phone, gave thanks that there was cell reception in this part of the dirt road driveway, and called the husband.

"I need you to bring me The Judge! I've got a rattlesnake in the road by the main gate."

"How big is he?"

"How big does he HAVE to be? It's a rattlesnake! He's small. About the size of a copperhead. I shot at him but he was moving so fast that I don't know if I hit him. He stopped in the weeds. Right now he and I are just looking at each other."

"Okay, on the way."

The Judge is a revolver that shoots .410 shotgun shells, thus greatly increasing your chances of hitting the target. It's tough to hit a fleeing snake with the .380 I had in my hand. Snakes tend to do that whole serpentine thing really quickly, because, well, you're shooting at them. Bullets whizzing into the ground tend to speed up a snake, but this one had reached the safety of the weeds and stopped. I quit shooting because I lost sight of him. So there I was, in my dusty boots, standing by the weeds, looking for a snake. Rattlesnakes take that camouflage thing to a whole new level. You can be shooting at one that's running across a gravel road and the minute he reaches the weeds it's like he activates a cloaking device and poof!

He's gone.

Except that he isn't.

And you're standing in the tall weeds with a rattlesnake. That you can't see.

I finally located the black and white stripes on his tail and worked my way up to the whole snake. He was looking at me. Trying to decide whether or not to fight or run for it. I backed up into the roadway and waited. If he tried to run then I could take the chance and waste bullets but otherwise, it was easier to wait for The Judge.

While waiting I texted the pastor:

"Running late to choir practice. Killing a rattlesnake."

Even as I typed the words, the irony struck me. Nope. Still not normal. Normal people drive past rattlesnakes. They do not stop the truck and do battle. If they happen to shoot and miss, they certainly do not follow said snake into the brush and call for reinforcements. And if they do the above, they definitely do not advertise their special brand of crazy by texting the pastor.

But I was gonna late. And I'd just joined the choir. Being late might give people the impression that I didn't care. And these people don't yet know I'm crazy. They think I'm normal. On the other hand, after that text, I'd say they figured it out.

So I stood in the road in sturdy boots instead of sandals because running into poisonous snakes at the gate was not a new thing for me. You can be fashionable or you can be prepared, but you cannot be both.

A low hum in the distance assured me the wait was over. The gravel crunched beneath his tires as Other Half rolled to a stop and carefully stepped out of the mule. Since possession is 9/10ths of the law, and he had the gun in his hand, there wasn't much argument about who got to shoot the rattlesnake. We've killed 14 copperheads by the house this summer. There are plenty of snakes to go around.

One dose of .410 shotgun shell and the rattlesnake had moved on to a greener patch of weeds. I kissed my Snake Soldier on the cheek, climbed back in the truck, and continued my journey towards normal. I will never arrive there, but it's a nice illusion.

Posted by: forensicfarmgirl AT 12:48 pm   |  Permalink   |  15 Comments  |  Email
Thursday, October 13 2016

For an adrenaline jolt, coffee and Red Bull can't hold a candle to the sound of a bawling calf and a herd of cattle crashing through the brush in the dark. I'd just stepped out the door to pen the chickens for the night when the cry of a calf riveted me to the forest. It was not a mournful, "Where's my momma" cry but a panicked "It's got me!" bawl which was accompanied by brush and small trees snapping as adult cows bellowed and barreled toward the calf.

Abandoning the chickens, I hitched up my sagging jeans and raced to the gate toward the cries in the woods. This was the point where once again, I regret my fashion decisions. Just because pants are on sale at a ridiculously low price doesn't mean you should buy them if they are too big. Maybe I thought they'd shrink, or, since normally faced with stacks and stacks of jeans meant to fit only the bodies of prepubescent girls, perhaps I was merely drunk on the illusion that I may find jeans that fit a middle aged woman. As it was, I came home with pants that were a size, or two, too big.

Since a good part of my police career was spent chasing young men in saggy pants, I must say that after running through the dark toward a crying cow with jeans sliding down my ass, I have a greater respect for drug dealers that can scale the fences between apartment complexes and still keep their pants above their ankles.

I made it through the gate and paused to hitch up my britches again. With a rescue battalion of tanks and bulldozers that were mother cows stampeding in my direction, it didn't take long to re-think the wisdom of becoming collateral damage under the onslaught of panicked cattle. I had no idea what had the calf, but it was quickly barreling in my direction and bringing a herd of cows with it.

They reached the clearing behind the barnyard just as I was slipping back through the gate.  The cattle circled and stomped and I could barely make out a yellow calf thrashing on the ground in the center of milling cows by the fence.  In a desperate hope that whatever had the calf was more frightened of humans than enraged mother cows, I shouted into the night.


I mean, really, what does one yell at a creature that isn't afraid of a herd of enraged cows?

Clearly my saggy pants and I needed reinforcements, so adopting the ghetto gait of the Troop Of Saggy Pants Soldiers, I managed to juggle a flashlight, a gun, and my beltloop to do a rolling lope back to the house.

Other Half was just sliding his masterpiece of shrimp kabobs into an opened oven when I burst through the door. He dashed outside as I grabbed a better flashlight. I joined him to find confused cattle still milling around the clearing, so we flashlighted the area in a search for mangled predators.

A rat ran. A bunny bounded off. One of the barn cats meowed back at me. The yellow calf blinked into the beam of my flashlight.


There was nothing to justify a full-scale City-Wide-Assist-The-Officer Cow. Since everyone was calm, I went through the fence and poked around the dark with the cattle. That's when I saw the red thing.

A thing.

A red thing.

What the hell was that? I flashlighted the thing and Other Half erupted into cursing normally reserved for goat adventures.

The red thing was the base of a mineral feeder.

It would appear that Yellow Calf must have gotten the base hung around her head, resulting in a wild dash through the forest in a vain attempt to outrun this thing that had her. Since the mineral feeder was a long way from the house, this was quite a jaunt. I'm not sure if she got it off when she hit the fence at the house, or if one of the other cows somehow managed to stomp it off of her. Regardless, the calf was okay and except for some dents, the mineral feeder was fine.

Since she is a heifer we plan to keep, I may name the calf "Steering Wheel" because she ran through the woods with a red steering wheel on her head.  Nevertheless, I cannot poke fun at her since she did a better job running that distance with a giant wheel on her head than I did loping across the barnyard in pants falling down my butt. Hopefully the calf will learn not to stick her head in strange things and I'll learn to wear a belt.

Posted by: forensicfarmgirl AT 11:25 am   |  Permalink   |  7 Comments  |  Email
Monday, October 10 2016

Several of you have asked about updates on Luna, the Moon Possum. I try to keep the Failte Gate Farm/Red Feather Ranch Facebook page updated with videos but I realize that many of you don't do Facebook so I'll give you an update here.

Like the rest of the dogs in the pack, Luna has a nickname that has evolved into her fulltime name. She became MoonPossum.

 Possum fits into the large pack quite well. We rarely go anywhere without a dog, or two, or three, in tow, so it's easy enough to take her with us when we leave the house, thus she gets a lot of socialization outside the home.

Things of note: Possum is a very happy-go-lucky creature who is unfazed by the sights and sounds that would rattle many pups - beeee-cuzzzzzzzzz - pause - SHE CAN'T SEE AND HEAR THEM!

That makes for happy walks in downtown Fort Worth, with traffic, railroad tracks, and sirens blaring, but on the other hand, it really makes you ever vigilant about her safety because she cannot hear the dangers around her.

Possum's day starts right after dawn before the sun is up and bright. She helps hinders with the chores and plays while I feed small livestock and horses. Then we go for a walk in the pasture where she piddles and plays and stays with big friends so she doesn't become a meal for a day-ranging coyote.  (yes, we have those here)

She comes in and helps me milk goats. The goats tolerate her pretty well. Possum loves fresh goat milk!

All the dogs like her, but Mesa is her BFF (Best Friend Forever) and constant babysitter when Mesa is not working. Mesa Moo provides companionship without the doting indulgence she may get from the adult dogs. If she steps out of line, Mesa nails her as if she could hear and see just like everyone else.  She cuts Possum no slack. Since our goal is to have Possum grow up as close to normal as possible, I think this is a good thing.

We make some adaptations for her disabilities. She has her goggles for bright sunlight. (HUGE thanks to Kathy for sending her some more pairs for her to grow into!) MoonPossum also wears a bell that helps us track her when she's not in sight. We bought an electronic collar that has a vibration mode on it. The shock mode will be disabled so there is no chance she'll get a shock. In essence the collar will serve as a pager to let her know we're trying to get her attention.

We are also getting lots of help on Facebook from the pages of "Keller The Double Merle" and "Braille The Double Merle" that help give us ideas and put us in touch with other dog handlers who have dogs like Luna, the MoonPossum.

Luna continues to introduce us to many new people, and we're appalled to learn how many pups like Luna are euthanized because of their disabilities. While I wouldn't knowingly breed for it, there is no reason why a puppy like Luna cannot live a wonderful life in the right home. The resources are out there and available to new owners, like us, to help you  with these pups. We don't find Luna to be more work than a 'normal' pup, she is just different.  She is an X puppy!

To learn more about these dogs visit Keller and Braille the Double Merles on Facebook and also check out the Pawsavers rescue. They're having a fundraiser right now where they're selling the cutest shirts! Go check them out at:

Posted by: forensicfarmgirl AT 09:51 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email

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