Tuesday, April 12, 2011

COMING OF AGE IN MONTANA

A couple of weeks ago, a new kid arrived.  Not very big, sort of a teenager.  He reminds me of
Chuck when he first arrived.  Looking around, trying to figure out what this place is all about.
It didn’t take any time at all for Chuck to take the kid under his wing.  I watched them walk around together, and it was obvious that Chuck was teaching the young bull-to-be everything he needed to know. 
“OK, Kid, this is where the Boss dumps the hay when the cold white stuff has covered up the grass.  Sometimes he dumps it over there, and when we are in a different pasture he brings it there with the big noisy thing he rides in.  If you look closely, the grass is just starting to come up.  It’s the best stuff to eat.  I do it all day.”
The kid followed Chuck around like a puppy following its daddy.  They occasionally rubbed noses.  Chuck would nudge him when he didn’t move fast enough. 
“Pay attention, kid, this stuff is important.”
The kid rubbed his forehead against Chuck’s neck in response, but Chuck was already on the move.  So much to teach, so little time.  Chuck is headed for a group of girls/cows, busy eating. 
“Who are they?”  The kid stopped, as Chuck surged on ahead.  The girls were really big, and he wasn’t going near them.
“These are the girls.  Come on, quit dragging your hooves, Kid.” 
The kid followed, slowly.  Chuck stood and waited and gave the kid a hard nudge with his nose when he finally drew up to the circle of girls.  The girls showed no interest.  Chuck bellowed, and they looked up.  A couple of them came over to sniff the new kid, who looked nervous.  None of the girls had any time for a kid, and went back to eating.
“Uh, Chuck?  They are very tall, aren’t they?”
“That’s just because they are older.  I used to be short like you, but if you eat enough of the grass, you will get as tall as I am.  Trust me, kid.  Just do what I tell ya, and you’ll be just fine.”
“I don’t think they like me.”
“Doesn’t matter, Kid.  Your time will come.”
That was a couple of weeks ago.  The kid followed Chuck around while chuck showed him everything.  As an outsider, I wondered if two bulls would show jealousy, if the girls would ever react.  Nothing.  They were just two guys, doing guy stuff.  The girls’ attitude was “Borrrring.” Kind of like football for people.
This morning, I noticed a large and tall Jersey female was in the small, fenced holding area outside my bedroom window.  In with her was the Kid.  Right next to them, on the other side of the barbed wire fence was Chuck, communicating like mad with the Kid.  The kid kept looking from the cow and back to Chuck and back to the girl.  Apparently, this is the big Coming of Age moment for the Kid.  Chuck was trying to show the Kid what he was supposed to do with the girl.  Occasionally Chuck would try to come through the fence to demonstrate, purely in the interest of teaching the Kid, of course.  But in the end, all Chuck could do was instruct through the fence.
“Remember what I told you the other day, Kid?  Now is your time.  You are a bull, she is a cow.  Now get in there and get ‘er done, Kid!  You can do it.”
The Kid is looking frustrated.  He knows his duty.  The cow has a wonderful fragrance, and he is hot on the scent.  The cow finds the whole thing tedious.  She keeps moving away, won’t hold still.  She just wants to stop and eat, but when she does, the Kid is right there, annoying as hell.  She thinks, SuperBowl, and yawns.
“Chuck, she is too tall!  My legs aren’t long enough.” 
“Just put your front hooves up on her back, and everything will work out fine.  I think.”  Chuck is beginning to realize the Kid really isn’t up for this. 
“Persuade her to go over by the pile of hay so you can stand on it.”
“YOU persuade her, Chuck.  She’s telling ME to get lost!”
Chuck gets as close as he can to her, separated by the barbed wire, and bellows. 
She bats her extremely long eyelashes at him.  “You have to be kidding, Chuck.”
“It’s his first time, give him a break, huh?  You remember when I was little, don’t you?”
No response.  Bored, she is sneaking a nibble of new grass. 
The kid is standing around, watching the grown-ups converse.  He is hoping Chuck will come and take care of business and let him go eat some hay.  This cow chasing can make a kid hungry.
I have other things to do and have to hope that somehow the Kid will get ‘er done.  Eventually, when the cow takes pity on him and holds still.  As I left the bedroom window, and gave young love some privacy, I heard Chuck bellow in frustration.  The life of a dedicated teacher is not easy.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

MONTANA REAL ESTATE

I used to be a realtor, in Texas.  Before that, I always seemed to involved somehow in real estate in other states.  So I surf Multiple Listings for fun to see what's happening whereever I am.  Montana offers spectacular land you can't find anywhere else.

Northwest Montana is beyond gorgeous.  I live in a river valley between two mountain ranges.  I look out the windows and see snow-topped mountains most of the year.  And when you walk outside, the air is more fun to breathe than anywhere you have ever been.  It's clean.  No pollution.  Which makes for bluer skies and a whiter moon. 

Real estate people are different up here.  Most of them come from generations of people of the land.  Going back to the days of homesteading, log cabins, and indians.  If they have a listing on land for sale, they probably know everyone who has ever lived on it, every tree and bush, some of which they may have planted themselves.  There is nothing about the land they don't know, and there is no person on the land they can't give you the history for.  They know where the deer are, and the elk, and probably the cougars and bears. 

When you meet them, they look like normal, attractive people.  They are a lot more.  Some of them are ex-loggers or teachers, some are also ranchers.  They are part of the culture up here that seems to shine with honesty and integrity.  A very rare thing in the real estate game, I can tell you. (Most people don't lock their doors.  If anyone suspicious-looking were to show up, a kind neighbor with a shotgun would arrive to ask polite questions.) 

One day there was a little house in little town listed for sale.  I am currently renting the most wonderful log cabin, which I never wanted to leave.  But renting carries with it certain risks, and my head told me,
"Go buy that little house."  So I went through all the motions, drove my dear realtor crazy looking for signs of mold (weren't any) and got approved by the lender for a loan.

Then everyone at the loan broker got the flu and I could find anyone alive on phone or email.  This went on for days.  During which time I began to wonder of Someone was trying to tell me something.  Every time I thought of leaving this cabin, which I have put my heart and soul into, I would start to cry.  A classic battle between head and heart. 

Well, I finally got up the nerve to tell me long-suffering realtor that I was going to chicken out, and not buy the place.  She could not have been kinder or more understanding.  I don't thing she was grinding her teeth, but I wouldn't have blamed her.

I wouldn't have missed the experience with Montana realtors for anything.  They are a very special breed, and know more about this land than I can even imagine.  I can't say enough about them.

SIGNS OF SPRING IN NW MONTANA

Rain has replaced the snow, and the pastures are emerging, with a few islands of snow left here and there.  An occasional married couple of Canada Geese lands to search for whatever has survived the winter.

In cleaning up the front porch from winter mess, I swept up some wet leaves and found two tiny, pretty little salamanders hidden in the wet.  I moved them to a wet flower bed and hope they live.  There is a new crop of robins about, so their survival is chancy.

I hauled some old boxes, paper, leaves, bark, etc., the general spring clean up mess, in a wheelbarrow over to the fire pit.  To do this I had to go under the wire that keeps the cows in.  They came over to investigate the interloper with trash.  You have to first understand that this is Montana MUD season.  It is everywhere.  Did I have mud boots on for this excursion through mud and cow poop slurry?  Nope.  (Will explain about that in a minute.)  I had on athletic shoes on, which is dishonest as I am not athletic at all.  Anyway, in pushing the wheelbarrow through 6" of mud, one of the shoes was grabbed by the mud monster and my foot slipped out and I plopped it right down into a pretty yellowish cow poop.  I had to turn around, and tug really hard to get the mud to let go and give me back my shoe.  I slipped my very slimy foot into the shoe and swore.  Meanwhile, the extremely beautiful golden jersey cows were gathered in a circle around me, fascinated with what humans do for amusement.  "Hello, girls, nice day, huh?"  One of them moo'ed faintly.  It may be they understand a whole lot, but feel we are unworthy to converse with.  They always have a slightly pitying look in their eyes.

A brief note about the mud boots I didn't have on.  They are called Sorellingtons, a new product from Sorel.  Two shades of green.  They are a bit girley.  Probably should have gone to Cabellas.  Anyway, they are the grandest mud boots ever, and all last year in the mud season, I kept them in the closet so I wouldn't get them dirty.  (You may laugh now.)  This year, after the above fiasco, they are coming out of the closet. 

I chose a different way back from the fire it, with the same mud and poop slurry, crawled under the wire, and removed the shoes.  Not really sure how to clean them.  They sure are not going into the washing machine until they are clean.  [Don't look for logic there, please.]

There is a new addition to the pastures:  A very young bull.  A previous time I took trash to burn, he followed me all over the place.  I pretended not to notice.  I don't understand why bulls seem to become imprinted on me.  I have been ordered NOT to PET this one, as trouble comes down the line.  I am LISTENING.  Yesterday, I was pruning some plum trees when a HUGE, deep bass toned bellow startled me.  My friend Chuck the dancing bull was very close in a pasture where he usually isn't, and he wanted out to play with me.  There was an electrified wire to keep him in, but it's about half an inch wide and doesn't look like it would keep a herd of ducks in.  But they sense when there is live power in it, I guess.  So he just stood there and bellowed and pawed the ground because he was not allowed out to play. 

I honestly believe if you were to sit in a chair and watch him for an hour you could see him growing, kind of like you can hear bamboo growing.  He has become a huge, magnificent creature.  Imagine the terrifying monster bulls in a Spanish bull fight.  That's what he looks like.  What, you've never seen a real bull fight?  Well, I admit it takes a huge attitude adjustment for westerners to appreciate the balletic but gorey spectacle.  Anyway, Chuck would be like the famous Ferdinand.  He wouldn't fight, he would just chase everyone around the bull ring until someone stopped to pet him on the forehead.  Then he might nudge you lovingly with his nose, knocking you down, then he might paw at you with his hooves to make you get up......  A new definition of "Tough Love."