Monday, June 30, 2008

Cool Morning Walks, Literally

For the past two mornings, I have awoken in Niwot. I have watered potted plants and let Spike out for his early morning roam around the yard; then I have gone for my walks. Walking out and around Niwot is very different from walking in Boulder - the scenery is much more bucolic, and the number of different critters and birds and insects is much higher. Yesterday i thought it was just my imagination that I felt chilly while out walking - it turns out it was 47 degrees, and, as usual, I was walking in sneakers, shorts and a T-shirt. It was 54 this morning, but felt warmer.

Walking around Niwot I have seen prairie dogs, fox, cottontail rabbits, cats and dogs, horses, cattle, goats, sheep, llamas, and a black bear. I've seen meadowlarks, bluebirds, red-winged blackbirds, blue jays, gray jays, and several smaller birds that I'll have to look up in my bird guide. (Eastern birds I know, pretty much - western birds, I'm learning.)

Spike has been in fine fettle - he patrols the fence-line several times each morning and evening. We spent last night curled up togteher and watching Jimmy Stewart in Harvey - one of my favorite movies. Maybe I'll end up like Elwood P. Dowd and be adopted by a pooka, too!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Old Town Niwot - 2005


Niwot Arts & Crafts Show

I arrived in Niwot yesterday to take care of Spike for a while. He is a sweetheart. After checking in with him, getting the mail in, and unpacking my few things, I headed over into Old Town Niwot and looked over the Arts & Crafts Festival. There is also one in Lyons this weekend, as well as the 5-mile Lyons River Run (where my sisiter and brother-in-law are this morning). The different types of art-work in Niwot were amazing - some breath-taking beautiful, some so-so, and some (in my poor judgement) simply awful. But the small community was really buzzing - it was so busy that I ducked out earlier than I intended due to the crowds.

Spike had a restless night; he was up almost once every hour. I know this because he rubs his nose and chin all over my nose when he returns to bed, which awakens me. But he seems fine this morning - had a nice turn out in the yard before I began watering the plants - and chowed down well. He is currently sleeping in my lap while I write and post this. Will head home for a couple of hours to see and love my kits, and then return to Spike.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Farm near Niwot, looking west

Old barn and outbuildings

Ready for Spike

The cold front has arrived, bringing cloudy skies and cooler temperatures. It felt positively brisk out this morning, during my walk. This morning I walked the Boulder Creek Path up to the mouth of Boulder Canyon and then returned home through the historic walking district of old homes and then on up to the 29th Street Mall and back around home. It was almost, but not quite, 5 miles. I'll be walking more today on my way from the Niwot Park-n-Ride to Spike's house.

DeJa was his usual sweet self for his visit yesterday, even though he'd left a mess for me to clean up - but then, he's an old man and accidents happen. Spike and I will probably spend most of our time together (for the next 4 days) sprawled on the sofa, reading together, or observing the sprinklers in the yard at dusk. He's a snuggler, and the only problem we have is that, in the summer, his furry bod is a bit too warm for me.... and sometimes I'm too warm for him.

I'll be home for several hours each day to love my two kits - Banichi and Lovey usually understand when I'm off pet-sitting; and they seem to love me more when I finally return and sleep in my bed with them. I'll feed and love them, let them out for a short run, clean their litter boxes, top off the bird feeders and love them more. - Have a great weekend!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Red Fox Kit

Here's my best sneaky fox look! Cute?

Fox Kits are Thieves in North Boulder

A cold front was due from Wyoming during the night, but hasn't yet arrived. Today is warm, cloudless and with a slight breeze from the north. Hopefully we'll get rain this afternoon; there are 2 wildfires burning already this morning in the state, and the grass, pasture and crops can use the moisture. Walked my 5 miles this morning, and drank two bottles of water while doing so. No, I don't normally buy bottled water - I drink from the tap, but I always carry water when I go out walking or hiking. It was warm even before dawn, and the birds had started singing at 4:30, so I just got up and went out. Birds, squirrels, raccoons, and fox were my walking companions this morning...

I spent a few hours with DeJa yesterday evening, and am heading back to his house for a few hours today. Tomorrow afternoon I begin a 4-night, 4-day care session with the Spike Meister in Niwot. My kits won't be happy when I return home each day with Spike's scent all over me, but they're used to it - and they know that they are my babies.

There was a column in the local paper saying that a bunch of fox kits are into mischief - they are stealing single shoes, gardening gloves, etc. from the porches of folks in north Boulder and leaving them in a wide variety of places. The neighbors have gotten together and designated a single pick-up spot for "found" items - at last count, there was one pair of matched shoes, 17 single shoes, 8 single gloves and 5 bandannas. - Those kits have been busy!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Pigeons Ahoy!

Lovey has always had her sights set at a higher level. She has captured baby bunnies, snakes, mice, and birds (mostly alive and released soon after). She has been chased by grackles and crows and ravens. But her hearts greatest desire, I think, is a large light-colored pigeon that visits the yard every afternoon. As soon as a pigeon coos, Lovey is in super-huntress mode and peering out the window. I don't know what she'd do if she actually caught one - she probably doesn't know, either - and her favorite bird is almost her own size.

Recent wildlife incidents here in Boulder include a bicyclist running into a bear on Old Stage Road, female mule deer aggressively defending their sleeping areas (chasing property owners and hikers), and a young black bear was tranquilized, tagged and removed from a yard in south Boulder. A little higher up in the mountains, a mother was surprised when she glanced out of her sliding glass door and saw two mountain lions having a refreshing drink of water from her toddler's swimming pool.

This morning, the cloud cover made the colors of sunrise absolutely glorious; the clouds are slowly dispersing and we're expecting a high temperature in the mid-90s, with a slightly higher than usual level of humidity. I will be off to the library and playing with the family tree today. Hope you have an enjoyable day!

Merlin napping - but it looks like my Lovey!

Merlin 40 - 20000226 - bengal cat

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Stone Mountain Lodge , Lyons, CO - where Lovey and I spent our first 6 months together

Stone Mountain Lodge

A Cool Summer Night's Walk

I spent 2 and 1/2 hours with DeJa yesterday - I read aloud to him, whether he can hear me or not - I do that with all the critters I stay with. Yesterday evening the reading material was "St. Peter's Fair", the 4th Brother Cadfael mystery by Ellis Peters (aka Edith Pargeter). I took DeJa out twice to go potty, which he did, and I left just before his owner was due home from work.

Standing at the bus stop last night I found that I am no longer a tasty treat for the local mosquitoes - they usually swarm me, which they did last night, but not one lit on me, and I had no bites when I arrived home (I had forgotten my insect repellant, as well). Since the skeeters weren't biting, and the northwesterly breeze was pleasant, I ended up walking home. Until almost 10 p.m. the Rockies were silhouetted against the afterglow of the sunset, and cloud banks formed dark bars marching across the lighter night sky. It was an enjoyable walk.

I made my 5-mile walk this morning, returning home to find Lovey full of talk, and Banichi curled up in his night nest. I fed them, took out the trash and recyclables, and then opened the patio door for them to go out and play. Lovey has been running back in here about every ten minutes and talking to me - Banichi is sprawled in the shady grass and is earnestly studying butterflies.

The raccoons visited around midnight last night/this morning; the squirrels are finding food elsewhere. The sparrows and finches and chickadees and nuthatches are still about and enjoying the bounty of the bird feeders... All is well in Boulder.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Green Valley of the River Clwyd in Wales

North Wales & Hay-on-Wye-11

Children's Moon over the Flatirons

It's another beautiful day in Boulder. Yesterday I walked to my pharmacy (3 miles away) and back to pick up my meds - it was kind of muggy, for here, but there was a nice breeze, and even though I had worn sunscreen and my sunglasses, I got a little sun. Today the children's moon is still visible over the Flatirons and Front Range, even as I write this. I couldn't figure out why I awoke so hungry this morning; then realized that I'd only eaten 6 strawberries since lunch yesterday, so I paused for 15 minutes in my walk this morning and grabbed a burrito.

As the baby squirrels are growing, they are leaving the area; Sally is the only one who still visits, other than the usual adults. The raccoon family visited last night and had a good munch on some stale bread I put out for them. I didn't see the bunny brood, but the broccoli was gone this morning, also - of course, the raccoons may have eaten it while I wasn't watching.

My sister was visiting, using the computer yesterday afternoon, and I really wanted to laugh: Banichi jumped onto the desk and butted her face so hard he dislodged her glasses - then he proceeded to present his backside to her to prove that she was a member of the family. It was priceless!!

I'm still plodding away in my family tree reseach and was supposed to have visited DeJa yesterday, but his owner called and cancelled just as I was heading out the door. I am booked for over-night jobs for 16 days in July, I'm also booked for 17 days each in August and September, so it looks like I'll be staying busy with my adopted four-legged families. Here's hoping you have good/pleasant weather!!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Stellar's Jay in pine - Trail Ridge Road, Rocky Mountain National Park

Stellar's Jay enjoying the view and wondering when the rains are going to start.

Photos on this site

I am a member of Webshots. At this point in time, all of the photos posted on my blog are "shared" photos from Webshots. And, I'm human - I do make mistakes - the photo of the squirrel that I titled "Shirley, one of my regular diners" was not titled correctly. I should have said that the photo looks like the squirrel I call Shirley sitting in the cottonwood tree in the north corner of the backyard. Kudos to Kathryn to catching my error!

I hope to be able to share some of my own photos on this site soon. However, I'm not sure how well this will work out, as my bifocals and I frequently disagree about the focus when I take a photograph. - Yep, I'm still one of the folks who goes out with a 35-mm camera and film.... Maybe soon I 'll be able to get a new-fangled digital camera and not have to worry about the focus being slightly out of kilter!

Have a super Sunday!

Assateague Island Sunrise - 2002

Glowing Horizon 2

Saturday, June 21, 2008

A "Ringer" for my Banichi

Grey Tabby

Beautiful Morning!

Wow! The sunrise today was absolutely gorgeous. I was out walking - managed 4 miles - and thoroughly enjoyed myself. It was cool and dry, the mosquitos were not out, and everything was quiet. You could hear the birds awakening and chirping sleepily in their hidden nests, Boulder Creek was chuckling to itself, cars were few and far between, and I saw only 4 other people, who were jogging/running.

The temperature has risen quickly, with the sun. The tennis courts next door are filled with folks. Soon people will start dipping in Boulder Creek - I love to walk by the Central Park and library areas and see folks of all ages in the Creek - little ones in bathing suits, high school and college kids with inner tubes, people in their 70s in T-shirts and shorts and sneakers, all taking a refreshing splash in the icy-cold waters of the Creek. There is still snow up on the front range mountaintops; we haven't yet seen the Creek out of its' banks. (And since I live in its' flood plain, I hope we don't!) But the Creek is running briskly and high and is a delight.

When my kits went out this morning, they prowled the nearby patios and then plopped down in the shade of the privacy fence that divides our complex from the Millenium Harvest House. They then shifted into the sun and caught a few rays. Lovey decided that I needed to be outside with them, and plaintively requested my presence. I went out with them for about 15 minutes, then returned inside for my breakfast. The kits joined me soon thereafter. I'm going to work on the family tree today and possibly visit the book store. I have a couple of "day visits" scheduled with DeJa next week, and then on the 28th, I'll be at Spike's for 5 nights and days. - Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend!

Friday, June 20, 2008

South Boulder Creek in Pickle Gulch

South Boulder Creek

The Early Bird... er, Cats... Herd Squirrels?

This morning was very interesting - I turned my two kits out to run, and was working on the family tree on-line, when I saw them back inside, behaving oddly (even for them). For some reason, Lovey and Banichi tag-team herded Gimpy, one of the regular squirrels into the bathtub.
They had herded him from outside (on the patio, I'd guess), through the living and dining area, down the hall, and through the dressing room to get to the bathroom and the tub. Why? Did it amuse them? Did they think I needed to look at Gimpy from a close-up point of view? He sat at the back of the tub and chattered at them, and they didn't try to get any closer. I left, the kits went back outside, and a few minutes later, Gimpy hopped on out and grabbed a peanut from the patio.

Gimpy? I originally called him "the Nose" because the fur on the bridge of his nose stands almost upright - like he has a bunch of crazy cowlicks right there, or his nose was injured and the fur grew back in an odd pattern. At the beginning of this spring, he showed up one afternoon with a large strip of fur and skin missing from his side and left hindleg. It has healed, but not very well, and he has a distinctive limp, so he is now Gimpy. Gimpy is a squirrel who is low on the totem pole - if any other squirrels appear, he gives way - unless it's one of the new babies.

I spent 2 and a half hours with DeJa today. His owner can see that he's in declining health, and she cried today while talking to me about him . He really is a sweet dog - loves attention and loves right back. It's devastating to lose a pet that you've had for many years - I said good-bye to Booger after 18 years, to WhoDat after 21 years, and my husband and I to Houston after he had had her for 15 years. We decided that our animals were no longer enjoying the quality of life they deserved, that we were prolonging their life for our own happiness, and that, in the wild, each one of them would have been long gone to their final resting place. It's never easy.

It's silly, I know, but I believe that all cats, when they die, go to a huge outdoor area where there's plenty of birds and creatures to chase (but never catch), plenty of sunshine and shade, plenty of food and water, and lots of catnip. I picture a similar place for each type of animal on this earth - dogs, horses, hamsters, goats, cows, elephants - you name it, they each have their own little corner of heaven. - It's people that I'm not too sure of.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

A young DeJa look-alike

9 1/2 months old

An Odd Tuesday

Yesterday I popped in and spent almost an hour with DeJa - took him out for a walk and had a drowse in the sun-dappled yard afterwards. Then it was on to the library to return some books, check out new ones, and show Mary how to use her e-mail, again. I picked up several new authors, and grabbed two old stand-bys (Brother Cadfael books), and then spent an hour trying to get Mary to do things for herself. - I can't say it did much good.

Worked on the family tree when I got home, with the patio door open and Lovey and Banichi trotting in and out. Banichi proudly brought me a large leaf he had "caught" and Lovey brought me a small branch. Lovey retrieves her favorite ball and has this penchant for bringing me sticks - I think she saw too many dog movies when she was a kitten! I had hoped to see some wildlife during the evening/night - perhaps rabbits or the raccoons or, as it's time, some baby foxes.
But some neighbors in the apartment building had other ideas. They partied until sometime after 2 a.m. - keeping the wildlife away and me awake. One of my neighbors goes to work at 2 in the morning, and she said she could hear the party from two blocks away. The police came by twice and the noise level would subside, but then slowly grow again. About 2:15, a female at the party asked, "You know what?" and I replied, out my window: "Yeah - you're keeping me awake!" Things got very quiet soon thereafter.

Took a nice walk at 5 a.m. - managed about 3 and 3/4ths mile today. The birds are singing like mad at the feeders outside, and we're looking at another day like yesterday - high temp: 90; humidity: 10-15%; with a possibility of afternoon thunderstorms.... Enjoy your day!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Samoyed puppy

swiss samoyed


After a humid (by Colorado standards) Monday, today is back to normal here. I walked 3 miles yesterday morning and 3 and a half miles today - so my ability to breathe is getting better. again, I walked early in the morning and enjoyed the sights and sounds of a mostly asleep town. The loudest noise was Boulder Creek chuckling to itself within its banks. I did startle a duck, and it quacked at me, but even that seemed muted this morning.

I have two day visits with DeJa this week - and am looking forward to seeing the big guy today. My kits have been busy stalking birds outside, but haven't made any catches. Lovey is used to my routine of walking early, and as soon as there is a hint of light in the windows, she comes to my pillow to awaken me. This morning I had to take 10 minutes to get Banichi's dreadlocks out of my hair - he sleeps on the pillow and "grooms" my hair at night, so I have mutiple mini-dreadlocks several mornings a week that I have to brush out.

I had some extra broccoli and put it out last night at the edge of the patio - the kits and I were entertained by watching a group of 8 young rabbits helping themselves to the free food, and then playing tag and hop-over among themselves. The raccoons didn't make an appearance last night - but Taylor came by and Lovey and Banichi were able to perform their watch-cats routine.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Ravens in Early Morning

I was up and out walking at 5 a.m. today - the air was clear and crisp - temp. 54, humidity 18%. This is a great time to observe the wildlife around town. The cottontail rabbits are still out and about, the raccoons are heading home, the birds are beginning to awaken in the trees, traffic is very light and the local ravens keep you under observation. At least the crow that used to sing the notes of "Pop Goes the Weasel" hasn't returned yet this spring - it was very disconcerting for a time when the bird followed me to the grocery store and the local bus stops and sang "Pop..." all the time. I know I'm popular with critters, but this was a little much.

Jeffery, my husband, went to an Indian Pow-Wow in Virginia the year before I met him, and was told that the raven was his personal animal totem. While we were dating and married, he often told me he'd come back to haunt me as a crow or raven if he passed away before I did. This morning, as I walked my course of several streets and paths, a large raven flew before me and/or behind me a great part of the way. Since it's Father's Day, I decided that Jeffrey was gracing me with his presence in avian form. As it continued to escort me through various neighborhoods, I started talking to it - and received a few stares from other people out exercising in the coolness of the morning. The raven perched in a tree at the end of my building as I re-entered the apartments ; it was then on the privacy fence when I let my kits out for their morning run.

To all Fathers, Dads, Daddys, Pas, Papas, Pop-pops, Grandads and Grandpas everywhere, I salute you! Happy Father's Day!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Poco Bueno, aged 16 in 1960 - My idea of the Ultimate Quarter Horse

Poco Bueno

A Male House Finch - one of the regular visitors

 House finch

Quiet Days

It's been quiet here lately - actually, not quiet, because the birds and squirrels can be very noisy - but there hasn't been much to comment on. We've had a few cool days and there's been snow in the high country - mountaintops that were brown and green once again have snow on them - but we are expecting temperatures in the 90s today and upper 80s for the next few following, so the snow will once again disappear. Boulder Creek is running in full spate from the snow melt, it's close to the bank tops and is very cold - excellent for tubing in town and/or kayaking higher up.

I'm slowly recovering from my bout with pneumonia. I'm still coughing, but a lot less than previously, and my nose is still filling up (but that's probably due to all the pollen and molds in the air). I got up early and walked 3 miles this morning - was winded and tired at the end of it, but I hope to get back to my regular 5 miles within the next two weeks.

Currently working on family tree research and doing a few "day jobs" for critters that only need me for an hour or so a day - the kits snuggle up close at night and I'm content.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Boulder from Flagstaff Mountain

Flagstaff Mountain View

Sparrow Caught - Sparrow Freed, Unharmed

Just as I was opening the patio door so the kits could go outside and run this afternoon, I thought, "Well, at least they didn't catch and kill anything on my birthday." As soon as the thought crossed my mind, I was sorry, because Lovey and Banichi don't kill often. So, of course, as I turned back, I heard a squeak and Lovey raced by me with a bird in her mouth. It was a young sparrow - scared, but unhurt. I took it from Lovey, double-checked it for harm, and released it outside. Both kits have been searching the apartment high and low for the bird, but it's outside, living its' life. That makes me happy.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

DeJa, Research and Thumb Twiddling

Today was a quick visit to DeJa, giving him a chance to walk and visit the great outdoors to unload while his family were at work. He was snoozing when I arrived, and jerked awake at my touch. I re-filled his water bowl, convinced him to stand and took him outside. He strolled around in front of the house for about 15 minutes (a good workout for him!) and then laid out by my side to soak up some sun for another 15. The wind has really picked up and we were both covered with male pollen catkins from the cottonwoods. Came back to let my kits out and had to chastise Banichi for lurking over Sally, the baby squirrel - Nichi did his best to convince me that he really wasn't going to pounce on her, but I gathered him inside anyway.

I was asked last week to be available to help a friend access her e-mail. She states that computers frighten her. I have written and printed out 4 pages of step-by-step instructions for her to follow twice; and she can't remember her ID and passwords either. She has lost all but one of the 10 3" by 5" cards I've given her with her information - and both sets of the step-by-steps. I told her I'd walk her through it once more - today. She has yet to call or show up - so I've been pretty much twiddling my thumbs, because I hate getting caught up in the excitement of exploring the past and then getting interupted. But I think it's time for me to start in on my current research and forget about going to the library with her.

Yes, it is June 11! The reason I stress that is because it's snowing up in the high country, the Eisenhower Tunnel road has been having white-out conditions, and Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park has been closed due to 1 to 2 foot snow drifts.... It's always fun to live in Colorado!

Monday, June 9, 2008

A windy Sunday with DeJa

DeJa is a dog who loves to be loved and who loves back with all his Cocker Spaniel heart. He is elderly, apricot-colored, almost blind, almost deaf, and a joy to love. I spent Sunday evening, night, and this morning with him. He gets medications twice a day, fed twice a day, and walked twice a day. I also take him outside and let him laze in the shade or sun (depending on the weather) and soak up some vitamin A and D. He is at a point in life where he sleeps a great deal, prefers treats to his regular food (who doesn't?), and cannot get up and down stairs on his own. But he is a snuggler, and he basks in attention. His family describe him as "high maintenence" - and, yes, I do carry him into and out of the house every two hours while I'm there and it isn't time to be in bed - but considering all the love and devotion he has given in his life, I just can't think of him as "high maintenance."

It was quite cool here last night - the low this morning was 39 degrees, so I closed up the house and contemplated putting DeJa's coat on him for the night. I couldn't find it, and he probably would have been a bit too warm with it on, so he escaped that degradation. Since heat rises, we slept up on the second floor. He was very frisky (for him) this morning and wanted a good long walk - then he seemed exhausted by mid-morning. I had to wake him to take him out at noon when I left to come home.

My kits were waiting for me at the door when I arrived - I'm pretty sure it's the sound of the key in the locks that actually brings them. I hugged them both, fed them and let them out for a brief run while I cleaned and re-filled the bird feeders. They were happy to come back inside after 30 minutes out and have a treat - then they curled up around me as I finished reading a mystery. I enjoy being able to help other people with their critters - but I definitely love to be home with mine!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Spike has Bushy Eyebrows; I surprise a Deputy

I have spent the past two nights with Spike in Niwot. Spike was 19 last summer when I began taking care of him during his family absences - so I guess he's 20 now. He's half Siamese and half tabby; with some stripes and very blue eyes. As he's grown older, he has become a diabetic, and needs to be fed and have his insulin shot at specific times. He's a terrific cat. We have spent most of our time together with him sprawled upon my chest - with his front paws and head propped up on my shoulder. He has marked me with his scent quite thoroughly - using his chin, jawbones, and lips. His favorite point of marking is my nose, followed by my glasses and my eyebrows.

Most young to middle-aged cats have sparse fur above their eyes - you can see the skin underneath the hair and realize that it is standing almost upright. Since Spike and I have been in close proximity, I can honestly say that the fur/hair above his eyes has grown very thickly and is almost bushy. It's kind of like the way old men grow very bushy eyebrows, even as the rest of their hair thins or disappears... Anyway, Spike is one big love. His family is returning this evening, and I'll be off to DeJa's house to spend the night with him. DeJa is an elderly apricot Cocker Spaniel who can no longer negotiate steps - and there are steps into and out of his house.

After giving Spike his breakfast and then his insulin this morning, I headed over to the local market to pick up a Sunday paper and grab a fresh bagel for myself. I crossed the grassy area, the road, and went into the small shoppping area; I was, as usual, in a T shirt, shorts and sneakers. As I passed one door, it suddenly opened, making me jump. It was the local Sherrif's office, and I scared the Deputy on his way out as much as he scared me. We laughed about it as we walked to the Niwot Market, and both of us picked up breakfast. I told him that Jeffrey, my husband, had always said I was part cat because I could see in the dark and walk extremely quietly. The Deputy said he had to agree with the quiet part.

OK - if you've checked the blog, you know my last 5 posts were regarding horse racing and Man o War. I'm finished with my horse racing kick - at least until next May - so I'll be back to posting about pets and wildlife and life in Boulder as a critter sitter.

Man O' War [All videos, no photos]

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Man o War Correction

I knew with all the statistics, I'd mess up something....Man o War raced in 1919 and 1920 (before Mom was born). He lost by a nose to Upset, not a half-length; he was facing the rear when the starting tape was raised for that race, and began racing at least 4 lengths behind everyone else. As far as I can tell, everything else is correct - oh, and William Harbut died on October 3, 1947. My apologies to all.

No Triple Crown Winner this Year

I admit it, I was excited about the possibility of Big Brown becoming the 12th horse to ever win the US Triple Crown. He didn't. I don't blame the horse, the jockey, or the trainer. I am sorry that the US racing industry did not get the big boost it needed by having a winner - but the possibility of it helped pay a great many folks' expenses. Why is winning the Triple Crown so difficult to accomplish? Only eleven horses have done so in the past 100 years: Sir Barton (1919), Gallant Fox (1930), Omaha (1935), War Admiral (1937), Whirlaway (1941), Count Fleet (1943), Assault (1946), Citation (1948), Secretariat (1973), Seattle Slew (1977), and Affirmed (1978).

These races are set over a period of 5 weeks; the Derby, in Kentucky, at a mile and one-quarter; two weeks later, the Preakness, in Maryland, at a mile and three-sixteenths; and 3 weeks following the Preakness, the Belmont, in New York, at the distance of one mile and a half. This is something that today's racing Thoroughbreds are not bred to do. During the past 100 years, 21 other horses have won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, but have been unable to win the Belmont Stakes. They were very good horses, too. They were: Burgoo King in 1932 and Bold Venture in 1934 (both of whom did not even try the Belmont), Pensive in 1944, Tim Tam in 1958, Carry Back in 1961, Northern Dancer in 1964, Kauai King in 1966, Fortward Pass in 1968 (he won the Derby by disqualification, so he will always be remembered with an asterisk), Majestic Prince in 1969, Cannonero II in 1971, Spectacular Bid in 1979, Pleasant Colony in 1981, Alysheba in 1987, Sunday Silence in 1989, Silver Charm in 1997, Real Quiet in 1998, Charismatic in 1999, War Emblem in 2002, Funny Cide in 2003, Smarty Jones in 2004, and Big Brown in 2008.

Most of the general public does not realize that horses are not fully mature until they are 5 to 8 years old - depending upon the breed. Thoroughbred racing, as it is today, asks extremely young and immature horses perform at the apex of their ability when they are equivalent to human children of the ages 5 to 12. Today the emphasis is on speed, speed, and more speed. Today's two-year-olds in training would have been looked at in horror by the people involved in horse racing in the early and mid-1600s. Then horses didn't start racing until they were 4 or 5 years old, and then they ran anywhere from 2 to 5 mile races in heats. The top finishers competed against one another until one had finished first in at least two heats - all on the same day. Today's horses are not bred for endurance.

I saw Secretariat win the Triple Crown races in 1973. I was awe-struck. He was the most impressive horse I had ever seen. I started talking to my parents about how great he was, and they both told me that if I wanted to find out about a true super-horse, I needed to know about Man o War. Man o War raced in 1920 and 1921 - my Mother was born his last racing year - but she had seen him in the flesh and heard Will Harbut's speech about him while he was standing at stud. After devouring all the information I could find on Man o War, I decided that he was my pick of number one race horse. (Secretariat is a very strong second.) Today's juveniles, or two year olds, race carrying very light weights. Usually the heaviest weight a horse carries in it's life is the mandated 126 pounds in the Triple Crown races (123 pounds for the fillies) - unless the horse is a real trooper and gets better with age, becoming a great handicap horse, like Kelso, Forego and John Henry.
Man o War made his first racing start on June 6, 1919. It was a maiden race, for horses who hadn't won a race before, and it was 5 furlongs (5/8ths of a mile). He won it by 6 lengths. Three days later, he ran in the Keene Memorial Stakes, and won. Two weeks after his first race, he started in his third, the Youthful Stakes, which he also won. Two days after his win in the Youthful, he carried 130 pounds in the Hudson Stakes, which he won going away. The rest is history - Man o War ran 21 races in two years, and won 20 of them. He finished second to a horse named Upset by a half-length when he was boxed in on the rail and had to be pulled up twice before he could get racing room. As a two-year-old, Man o War carried 130 pounds in 6 races; as a three-year-old, he carried a high weight of 138 pounds. He set 5 World Records as a three-year-old, ranging at distances from 1 mile to a mile and 5/8ths.

Most of today's racing Thoroughbreds could not do what Man o War did. They couldn't compete with Secretariat, either. Man o War did not run in the Kentucky Derby in 1921; his owner, Samuel Riddle, did not believe in that it was in the horse's best interest to run it a mile and a quarter in early May. Man o War did run in and win the Preakness and the Belmont (by 20 lengths) - but he didn't have the opportunity to try to be a Triple Crown Champion. (Samuel Riddle later changed his mind and ran War Admiral, a son of Man o War, in the 1937 Triple Crown - and won. Seabiscuit, a notable handicap racer, was a grandson of Man o War.)

All good things must come to an end ..... When Man o War was retired from the race track (at the end of 1921) and sent to stud, he was assigned Will Harbut as his groom. Will and Man o War had an "understanding" between them and were almost inseparable. Will Harbut was the man responsible for the phrase: "he was the mostest hoss." In October of 1946, Mr. Harbut had a stroke and became paralyzed on one side - after he was released from the hospital, he made daily visits to Big Red, even though another groom now had his position. Will passed away suddenly in October 1947. Man o War passed away on November 1st of that same year. They were a team.

Man o War with groom Will Harbut - the Mostest Hoss

The other of 2 color pictures

Mowing alfalfa; this could have been my great-grandfather, grandfather, or Uncle El

Mowing Alfalfa

Friday, June 6, 2008

Weather, a Midnight Raid, and Ponies

The foothills of Colorado have quirky weather - here it is, June, and yesterday the heat came on and I had to wear slacks to keep my legs warm. A cold front came through Wednesday evening, with heavy rain and hail. Then we had about 18 hours of soft rain. The land needed it. Our humidity level in Boulder is usually below 20%; people complain if it's higher than 30%. Yesterday the high temperature was 55 and the humidity varied from 100 to 67%. We were wet and chilled. Today the sky is blue, it's already in the 60s and the humidity is about 22% - quite a change - and quite welcome!

I was finishing some research last night and about to close down the computer just before midnight. I had filled the bird-feeders and placed peanuts out for the squirrels, so food would be ready at 5 a.m., when they usually start visiting. Silly me! I had forgotten about our maurauding band of raccoons. They arrived at 11:55; and were having a ball eating the peanuts. The kits and I crowded up to the window, and watched - and were watched back. Last night there were four in the group - a larger adult (?) with a bobbed-tail and three smaller ones. The kits howled and growled and spat; I knocked on the windows and made great exaggerated motions - all to no avail. The raccoons looked at us, and kept on cracking the peanuts out of the shells and eating. I told Lovey and Banichi that they were very brave to defend the home turf against 4 raccoons, and then went to bed.

My last two photo postings were of Paul and Maureen Beebe and Black Comet, and of Chincoteague ponies grazing on Assateague. Maureen told me that Paul was impatient that day and didn't want his picture taken - that's why her hand is on the bridle. Maureen and Paul are cousins of mine - of course, just about all true Chincoteaguers are related to each other. Ida Whealton Beebe (Maureen's grandmother) was my great-grandmother's sister.

Marguerite Henry made Chincoteague famous by writing Misty of Chincoteague. The story of brother and sister wanting a pony of their own, that wouldn't be sold, was a winner (as a matter of fact, it won the prestigous Newberry Award). The origin of the Chincoteague pony is "veiled in the mists of time." Assateague Island was used as a natural holding area for livestock by folks on Chincoteague and other folks up the Maryland coast. The ponies may be remnants of livestock gone wild; the other assumption is that they are descendants of a group of ponies that were ship-wrecked while on the way from Spain to the mines of Peru. There is a little bit of proof of this - a Spanish ship, with ponies headed for the mines, was lost in the 1600s along the Eastern seaboard. A surveyor on Assateague saw the remains of a ship on one of the sandbars to the east of the island in the early 1600s, and noted that there were several "blinded horses" on the island. - At that point in time, ponies or horses who worked in the mines were blinded before transport to the mines. This was to inhibit the ponies from straying, to keep them from having eye problems due to the dust and ores in the mines, and also for ease of handling. (Blind ponies would not raise a ruckus being put into a sling and hauled up into the air, then slung over to a ship, and dropped down into the dark, smelly hold of a ship.) The ponies only had to be fed and watered, and could otherwise be left to their work.

In any event, people moved onto and farmed Assateague and Chincoteague. Herds of cattle, sheep, goats and horses/ponies were roaming free on Assateague. They were herded together and marked or branded about once a year. Likely prospects for riding or work horses were taken from the herd for breaking and training. Most of the residents of Assateague and Chincoteague would get together for this large round-up of livestock of all sorts, and they would have a huge communal dinner together. This is how today's Pony Penning began.

The wild ponies of Chincoteague today are owned by the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company, and are grazed by permit on the Assateague National Wildlife Refuge. The ponies are rounded up four times a year - once for Pony Penning, the last Wednesday and Thursday in July - and three other times during the year. At each round-up the ponies are checked by a veterinarian, and have their blood tested for infectious diseases; a farrier/blacksmith is there to trim their hooves; annual vaccinations and worming treatments are given. The "wild" ponies are taken care of very well.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Chautauqua Park and the Flatirons, Boulder

Boulder Colorado Meadow

Sparrow Excitement

Late yesterday I noticed a female English sparrow sitting on the patio. Her balance was off - when she leaned forward to peck at a seed, she'd roll onto her chest and have to flap her wings to regain an upright stance. Before letting the kits out for their morning romp today, I dutifully checked to see if the sparrow was in sight. She wasn't, so I let the kits out. - BIG mistake!

I stepped onto the patio and refilled the bird feeders, cleaned the chair seats of peanut hulls, and placed new peanuts out. Then I was aware that Lovey and Banichi were double-teaming a hunt for something in the grass about 150 feet north of our patio. Yep - it was the poor little sparrow.
Lovey grabbed it and ran inside; Banichi was hot on her heels; I was following all three. The phone rang, and I paused to answer it, hearing the sparrow squeaking from my dressing room... my poor sister was greeted with :'Lovey! Kathy! Lovey's got a live bird and I've got to rescue it!" I then dropped the receiver and ran.

The bird was sitting on the floor of the dressing room, with a cat on either side of it. I reached in, grabbed the bird in my right hand, and then returned to the phone. After a brief conversation, during which the bird escaped once and fluttered about on my bed, I took the sparrow back outside. Then I had to convince the kits to go inside while I released the bird. I finally got them in and closed the patio door. I went out by the privacy fence and released the little bird. I'm not sure what is wrong with her, but my kits are not going to be the cause of her demise.

Lord of the Ring MLF, a Gypsy Vanner stallion

Lord of The Ring MLF, Imported 15.2hh Gypsy Stallion