<![CDATA[C 4 Ranch - C4 Chatter ]]>Wed, 27 Sep 2017 19:41:54 -0700Weebly<![CDATA[To err is human—to forgive, canine.    ~Unknown~]]>Sun, 12 Jul 2015 00:36:26 GMThttp://c4ranch.com/c4-chatter/to-err-is-humanto-forgive-canine-unknownPicture
I've had a dog in my life for as far back as I can remember. There was Corky that caught fish in my mom's decorative pond, Lancelot that thought the malamute down the road was in love with his one-foot tall self, Jake who was captain of the boat and my heart - and now Tank and Jag, the dysfunctional brothers that make us laugh every day. I've stepped on their feet, tripped over them, ignored them in selfish moments, left them for hours, yelled at them, crammed pills down their throats, given them lettuce as a treat and taken them to the vet. And yet I can count on a grand greeting when I wake up in the morning or walk through the door after being gone thirty seconds to take out the trash. They cuddle with me when I cry, wag their hind ends when I smile and trust me when things get scary.

I can't say I've earned this royal treatment but that doesn't seem to be the point with them. They love me in spite of myself. Isn't that what we do as parents with our children? With our spouses? With true friends? We love them for who they are to us. We tolerate and learn from the part of them that doesn't quite gel with us. We accept them for all the things that make them uniquely them. This is about as close to unconditional love as we humans get. Canines are by nature loving, trusting and loyal. It comes freely and without reservation.  They want us to be happy with them AND with each other.

Like all the animals in my life, these guys are teaching me every day how to be better, kinder, more genuine.  I'm not a star student by any means but fortunately my teachers refrain from all harsh judgments and see potential in everyone. If gold stars were wagging tails, I'd have a million of them. 

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<![CDATA[Where in this wide world can man find nobility without pride, friendship without envy, or beauty without vanity? Here, where grace is served with muscle and strength by gentleness. ~Ronald Duncan~]]>Sun, 21 Sep 2014 15:56:24 GMThttp://c4ranch.com/c4-chatter/-where-in-this-wide-world-can-man-find-nobility-without-pride-friendship-without-envy-or-beauty-without-vanity-here-where-grace-is-served-with-muscle-and-strength-by-gentleness-confined-he-serves-without-servility-he-has-fought-without-enmity-therPicture
Herd behavior is so interesting to observe. With each change here at the ranch - whether it be a new horse moving in, a foal born, a horse going to their new home, an aging horse or a death – the herd adjusts and establishes a new order.  With wild horses there is always a mare in charge – and second in command is the stallion.  The rest of the herd falls somewhere under these two.

Here, from day one, the mare in charge has been Sugar.  She is the smallest but the mightiest.  A look from her or a toss of her head and horses scatter!  It’s really quite funny to watch. In her younger years, she might have popped that leg out to emphasize her point, but these days, it’s all in the flip of that head. However, in the last couple of years we have watched a slow progression.  Kit, Sugar’s undeniable daughter (they could not look or act more alike) is being groomed to take over and the process is almost complete. Kit is now 5 years old and all muscle and attitude, just like Sugar when we first brought her home. The confidence these two exude is admirable.  They are strong and forceful but not bullies.  It’s simply their duty within the herd to guide the others.  Sugar has been a phenomenal teacher. Kit has taken to her new position well, but I find it so sad to watch our Sugar age albeit gracefully.

Passing the torch requires changes from the older mare as much as the replacement.  Whether she instinctively has to or chooses to, I do not know, but she separates herself from the herd.  We’ve watched this escalate over the course of a few years.  Sugar spends more and more time grazing by herself or coming in for some human TLC.  My heart hurts as I watch her because I know how strong and regal she has always been.  However, when I look in her eyes I don’t see sadness.  She’s as proud as ever.  She’s just doing what she’s meant to do – taking care of her herd the way nature intended by training the younger, stronger Kit to take her place.

We have no stallion so our gelding Beau assumes the role of second in command. Since the two other boys we’ve had - Joey and Jackson -have been adopted into other families, he has never had to jockey for position.  Beau has been quite content to do whatever Sugar tells him for years.  It’s obvious that the transition to Kit is not complete in his head because he still gets annoyed with her for tagging along with him everywhere he goes!  It used to be him following Sugar’s path and I suppose that will soon be the case with Kit. 

The rest of the herd seeks their place within the lineup.  Although it doesn’t change often, it is by no means set within the lower ranks. It seems to depend on how they are being treated by the King and Queen as well as how they handle themselves among their peers. It’s not necessarily the strongest that are higher in rank.  Horses, like people, are so very individual.  Some horses have no interest in bossing around a herd-mate.  They are content to pull up the rear of the line at feed time. Some become Miss Congeniality and work at keeping the peace. Some are continually playful and dance around the others like every day is a party! And still others work hard to stay in the middle of the pack so that they aren’t really noticed.

I could tell you who currently holds each and every one of these positions within the C4 Ranch herd. Belle’s recent passing has defined the remaining herd members’ positions more than ever. She was the bridge between royalty and the commoners. I would have loved to see her as Sugar’s successor but she was far too docile for that.  I watched with awe and respect as she took a back seat to Kit, a mare thirteen years her junior.  Belle was bigger, stronger, faster and probably smarter than all the rest.  She never used those characteristics to bully her way to the top.  Horses seem to know and accept their positions in the herd without cockiness or shame.  Each role, from the bottom to the top, is of equal importance.  The end result is a functional family with unconditional love and respect for all members… I know a few human families that could benefit from sitting in our pasture and paying attention.



Sugar and Kit the day Kit was born.
Sugar with a three year old Kit.  A bit of a family resemblance,

don't you think?!

Kit in the forefront, literally and figuratively.
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<![CDATA[Today I brought her a snow cone.]]>Wed, 16 Jul 2014 17:20:02 GMThttp://c4ranch.com/c4-chatter/today-i-brought-her-a-snow-conePicture
She loved any kind of treat – the normal horse temptations of course - carrots, grain, pears, apples - but she would do tricks for a handful of vanilla snow cone or Sonic ice! Today I stopped at the stand in Farmersville for the first time and
bought a large vanilla and strawberry snow cone. It was delicious! I was already smiling at the thought of sharing it with Belle and Beau.  (Both of them meet me fence-side at the sight of a big Styrofoam
cup.)

It wasn’t until I was pulling up to the C4 Ranch gate that I remembered Belle wouldn’t be meeting me at the fence …  again … ever. I caught the tears in my throat for the 100th time in the last week and drove up to
the barn.  I walked over to the closest fence post and called Beau, our sweet boy that always knows how to make me smile.  He saw the cup and came prancing over in that clumsy Walker gate of his. He slurped up the snow cone from my palm and then laid his big head on the top of mine while I filled my hand back up with the sweet ice.  When the cup
was empty, he stood there with me and let me cry into his neck.  He didn’t move.  It was me that finally broke the moment with a big kiss on his snout. I know he understands where my sadness comes from and feels it too. We’re all running on autopilot right now. 
 
She came to us in early 2004 a little “broken”. 
         
  • She had been kidnapped and starved for about three months when she was younger so food was not something she took for granted. (That girl LOVED to eat and watching her was a complete joy. She appreciated every bite.)   
  • Although she enjoyed stall time, it was quite a while before she was really comfortable with the  door between the stall and the run being closed. We assumed it had something to  do with being trapped in the past so we respected that and left her door open.       
  • She had a fear of strangers, especially men. The man that had kidnapped and abused her also stole her trust. You could see the fear in her eyes and feel the tenseness  in her muscles when someone new would come around. Her flight instinct was in overdrive for a long time, so we made certain to introduce her to new faces and let relationships form at her pace.  
  • She lost a 5 month old foal to a tragic accident right before we bought her. This loss only added to her distrust and caused a sadness to define her for a time.

It was not overnight, but she eventually conquered all of the concerning bullet points above.
        
She still  appreciated every meal and ate like it was the “best thing EVER” every time, but  she was no longer anxious about eating – she was satiated and content and she knew there would always be more.
       
Stall time with the door closed changed from a prison to paradise. She would casually eat her hay and stare happily out her window.  She’d talk to us when she was ready to go back out in the pasture, but there was no urgency in her voice.  She knew we’d get there eventually and open that door.  
           
She learned that all men are not evil. She formed a bond with Tim and counted on him to pound any horse fly that landed on her. (She would come in from the back pasture every evening and wait for him to save her from the stinging beasts! Between bombing missions, she would rest her sweaty head on his chest in thanks.) Our farrier and vet respected our protectiveness and took the time to earn her trust. She became a model “pedicure” client and patient. She didn’t flinch for the vet and she would hand the farrier her big pancake feet!
         
She gave us two beautiful foals, Derby and Liberty, and I was in awe of her motherly instincts. I have no doubt that the opportunity to be dam to these fillies allowed her to redefine herself and heal her soul.

Those of you that haven’t spent much time around animals may laugh at the thought of a horse’s “soul”, but I assure you, the goodness and purity in animals puts humans to shame.  Belle was a perfect example of
this.  
 
If you’ve read any of my other blogs, you may already know that she was my “watch-horse”.  I could count on her to let me know if something needed my attention…like the night Beau got caught on the other side of the fence or when a little deer was stuck on barbed wire at the back of the property.  She would warn me when a bad storm was coming or simply if someone pulled  into the drive. If I wasn’t paying attention, she’d get in my face and make sure I “heard” her!  
 
She said “please” with a bow and a barely audible neigh. “Thank you” was eye contact and a little lean in my direction. She told me she loved me every day by lowering her head to my level and closing her eyes.  She’d wait for me to kiss her big ole nose and lay my head on that wide, flat part of her face just below her eyes.  We’d stay motionless for several seconds. I’d whisper to her, “don’t tell the others but I love you best”.  She’d let me hug that big, beautiful lightening bolt neck. I’d breathe in her awesome horsey scent and say, “you smell ALMOST as good as Beau”.  I swear she understood me because she would open those big brown eyes, pull that head up and show me her “evil” eye at the sound of his name! It made me giggle every time.  We did this routine hundreds of times.

Referring to Belle’s “evil eye” is not a play on words – it was absolute fact.  Belle’s left eye was kind and soft and could melt your heart. Her right eye, especially in the beginning, was cautious and darting,  sometimes making you a little wary of what was to come. I think it was her way of reconciling the horse that hadn’t been treated well at times in the past with the horse that loved to run (and win), played in water with childlike abandon, simply adored being a mom, could make alfalfa look
like a lobster dinner, and had her humans trained so well. (Even my friend, Helen Bailey, an artist that can draw horses you want to reach out and touch, could see the difference in her two sides.) She was gorgeous from either view. 

All of our animals are such an important part of our family. Each and every one has something different to teach and share with  us.  And each has a unique place in our hearts. But Belle snuck into mine in such a profound way. She stamped her name on it in permanent ink and claimed her spot.  I  have NO doubt that she was “supposed” to come into my life. I needed her just  as much, if not more, than she needed me. She was my confidant, my protector, my rock, my friend.  
 
She learned that if she  snuck over to the corral gate alone in the evening, I would open it for her and produce an extra treat. We’d do our “I love you” ritual and she’d be off again.  She was a no-nonsense
girlfriend.  She took care of things, let you know how she felt, but had no time for idle gossip. She was the same way within the herd. She was the biggest and no doubt strongest, but she never pushed her weight around.  She was the first one by your side in a crisis but otherwise stood confidently in the background, ready to step forward if needed...In my mind, she is stepping forward now and offering that big flat spot on her face for me to lean on. 

Belle was one of the true loves of my life. To say that I miss her is not adequate.  We lost her unexpectedly last week. 

She came to us a little broken. She left us whole and happy.

Today I brought her a snow cone. 
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<![CDATA[How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.  ~Carol Sobieski and Thomas Meehan]]>Tue, 19 Nov 2013 04:21:52 GMThttp://c4ranch.com/c4-chatter/how-lucky-i-am-to-have-something-that-makes-saying-goodbye-so-hard-carol-sobieski-and-thomas-meehanShe was just about the ugliest horse I had ever seen – scrawny,
balding, and sunburnt from the intense Texas beams in July. At first it was the foal at her side that caught my eye – a handsome  little sorrel and white colt that we would later nickname Joey.  It was through that perfect little “boy” that I got a glimpse of what his dam must have looked like in her younger years. 

We had gone to a nearby ranch to look at a black and white mare and her 3 month old foal that were for sale.  (This was going to be our first foal and we thought it best to start with one on the ground!) The mare we went to see was stunning and her little filly was equally beautiful. 
Going home with them was a no-brainer. 

The black and white pair was pasturing with Joey and his dam.  We stood watching the four of them for quite some time, enjoying the babies’ attempts to hide from our view  behind their moms. It was at this point that I made eye contact with “Bobbie” - the pitiful looking, sunburnt, bald mare with the cute son.  She  had big brown kind eyes with a hint of sadness in them. All of a sudden, I heard  myself asking if the sorrel and white pair was also for sale.   Much to my husband’s surprise, I had decided that she needed  us.  She was well bred and well
fed but that was a working ranch and there was no pampering going on there.  Bobbie was in dire need of some TLC and I knew we could offer that to her. 

It turned out that she had been quite the promising roping horse  but when she was just three years old she hurt her left hip in a barrel racing
accident.  Since then, she had been  a proven brood mare to the rancher we negotiated with.  She went home with us, along with Joey, Babe and Dani.  (There has not been one person that’s come to our ranch since  that hasn’t openly or privately wondered what we were thinking when we bought her!) We like to say we rescued her  that day but it’s accurate and honest to admit that we got more out of caring  for her than we could have ever returned.  We fell in love with her immediately
upon getting her home and vowed to each other, and to her, that we would never  sell her – she was part of our family.

Bobbie was our “middle child” – you know the one -  that  child that never demands anything and sometimes gets overlooked at treat time -
Or the one that appreciates every bit of attention she is afforded but doesn’t  make you feel guilty if you’re in a hurry. She never pushed us around or even came close to stepping on our toes. She was respectful and kind.  In the horse world, she was the same.  She never provoked any herd members. If one of the others wanted to feel  important and toss their mane around like a big shot, she let them.  She was, as I like to say about the most accomplished of humans,  comfortable in her own skin.

And that skin never was pretty up close, no matter how  many miracle cures we tried!  I took a photo of her a few years ago that my friend Paige likes to call her “Glamour Shot”. It was taken in the distance with Bobbie standing regally and cropped just far enough away that you couldn’t make out her scars or thinning hair. She was beautiful and it’s the way I started seeing her every time I looked at her. 

We held up our end of the pampering bargain by bathing her in  sensitive skin medicated shampoo, covering her 1000+  pound  body in sunscreen, providing  shelter and a fan on those hot Texas  days and making sure she got regular pedicures. She paid us back a thousand fold with two more beautiful babies that share her kind spirit. 

Bobbie was that parent we should all strive to be – the perfect  combination of protectiveness and trust that allow children to grow up feeling loved and confident in their independence. Her children recognized it too.  I saw it especially in Rey.  Even as an adult horse, she was respectful and protective of her mom. 

The last year or two, Bobbie enjoyed her “old mare” status.   She learned quickly that once you  reach that magic age where your hip bones look a little pointier and your belly  droops a little lower, all you have to do is come to the gate and neigh for an extra meal.  I could count on her call about five o’clock every day.  

We said “good-bye” to sweet, BEAUTIFUL Bobbie last night.  She  is missed so much already. As my husband said, “home seems a little empty tonight”. But our hearts smile as we imagine her with a thick fur coat and mane, running with no pain to the gate for an extra  portion!

We love you, Miss Bobbie.  We will forever be grateful that you became part of our family.
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<![CDATA[Who's in charge here?....]]>Mon, 05 Nov 2012 01:59:10 GMThttp://c4ranch.com/c4-chatter/whos-in-charge-herePicture
...It's pretty apparent to me after this evening's walk that it's not me! These boys LOVE to swim but since the weather has gotten a little cooler and they take longer to dry, I haven't been letting them in the ponds. 

However, that all changed a few days ago when we went on one of our typical walks around the property. In true doggy fashion, they always find something to roll in but it's usually a dead bug, a crawdad hole, or a snake skin  if I  see anything at all. This time they dove under the fence and found new smells on the neighbor's side. They began rolling feverishly as if they just couldn't get close enough to whatever had their attention.  

I was taking photos of the horses and didn't give them much thought until I started heading back to the house and called them to come with me.  When my two puppies appeared before me, unrecognizable and dressed in cow poo, I immediately screamed at them "go swimming" in the meanest voice I could muster.  They took off with lightening speed and I heard a spash long before I got to the pond. I found a stick and threw it at least a dozen times for retrieval to make sure they were clean before getting anywhere near my back door.

The next day we went another route on our walk, avoiding the neighbor's pasture, and stayed close to the woods instead.  There we came upon an area where wild hogs have been partying in our pasture leaving huge dugouts of dirt.  Tank and Jag quickly grabbed hold of their scent like it was lavender and rolled to their hearts' content.  By the time we left that area, I had two dirt brown dogs from head to toe. Again, I yelled, "go swimming" and they happily ran to the pond.  By the time I got there, Jag had found the stick from the day before and brought it to me.  After several tosses, we were on our way back home.

This evening I grabbed my camera like always and we headed out.  We went  to the back pasture to check on Beau. (His feet have been doing really well so he's getting to spend more time grazing with his girls.) As soon as I turned my back on those little Corgi hoodlums, they were back under the fence wallowing in whatever nastiness they could find.  I no more than called their names before they dashed past me and ran to the pond. I never had to give the command. THIS time, Jag actually took the stick and laid it by the bench where I usually sit my camera before he dove. I swear to you they literally frolicked and smiled as if their plan couldn't have worked better.  What better way to get to go swimming than to get dirty and be ordered into the pond?! 

Now I find myself smiling at my very clean, very tired Corgi Boys.  I'd like to come up with a plan of my own to avoid this newly developed ritual tomorrow but I'm pretty sure I'll be outsmarted again. Who's in charge at your place?   

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<![CDATA[The "Stars" at Night]]>Mon, 15 Oct 2012 20:16:38 GMThttp://c4ranch.com/c4-chatter/the-stars-at-nightPicture
I once considered myself quite the dare devil - racing mini-bikes as the BACK passenger on a horse; running off the side of a mountain in a glider;cliff jumping into the lake; night diving with my dive  buddy holding the flashlight; raising children - but now, I get my death defying thrills from walking in my backyard at night.  

Each night we take the dogs out before bedtime for what we call our "flashlight walk". Out here, especially on a night with no moon, the flashlight is our only light.  Since we have no idea what's lurking out there (like that snake that got our horse Bobbie last month OR the wild hog that might decide to attack OR the coyotes we hear howling every night OR, heaven forbid, the skunk that has it in for Jag), walking around at night here is an adventure. 

A few nights ago I was out by myself with the dogs when I was met with what looked like hundreds of eyes in the not-far-enough distance.  I quickly took the dogs back inside before they figured out that something worth chasing was on their land and went back out on my own. (A hundred yards from my backdoor and I felt like I was in an episode of American Hogger.) I walked to where I had seen the eyes and shined my light.  They were still staring back.  I moved closer and closer until I realized that the coyotes or wild hogs I thought I was going to find were actually deer - fourteen of them (okay so there were twenty four eyes, not hundreds. Blame my adrenaline.) There were big deer and baby deer - some motionless, some eating - but none terrified of me enough to run. I was quite flattered that they thought of the C4 as friendly territory. Since then, they've been in that spot every evening.  

We went out a bit earlier last night.  The deer weren't in their spot yet but the persimmon tree by the pond was ROCKIN, literally!  We shined the light in the tree and the eyes looking back at us looked like Christmas tree lights. Apparently Smokey and Bandit (the thieving raccoons that terrorize our cat and destroy our barn) had brought their friends and family to feast on persimmons. I admit to complete joy watching those little suckers scamper out of the tree and run into the woods when we got close. (Anyone who thinks a raccoon is cute has not cleaned up after one.) And I don't know why I referred to them as "little".  My friend and I were on foal watch one night and saw one stand up on his hind legs, use both hands to push in opposite directions and open the big barn doors. There are days when that is a feat for me! 

We live on the edge of Corps of Engineer land so there is no telling what is living in those woods. Lots of hog hunters come through here boasting of their catch and my husband has caught the rascals rooting up our back pasture. I have gladly never come across one.  It's the coyotes that boldly run across our land in broad daylight and sing all night long that unnerve me. Tank and Jag think nothing of chasing them. Although I know they could never catch one, I fear the day a coyote decides to turn around. That's another animal I  thought of as small and thin, but no more.  The ones that trot through here are fat, happy and can jump a four foot fence like they are skipping, all the while never taking their eyes off of you.

The sounds are everywhere out here. The donkeys and the cows next door heehaw and moo "hello".  My favorite is the roosters that have no idea what dawn is and doodle doo every time we step out the door after dark. Even the pond is not immune to night terrors.  We have frogs the size of big rats loudly croaking and turtles by the hundreds that plop into the water as we walk by.

There is no telling what kind of excitement awaits us when we head out on our flashlight walk each night. We look forward to ALMOST any adventure. I offer two lessons in this rambling story. (1) Adventure is as close as you allow it to be, and (2) when someone tells you that they are enjoying a "peaceful" life in the country, you can rest assured that they are not being completely honest. The stars at night ARE big and bright here in Texas, but so are the critters.





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<![CDATA[Intuition always has our best interest at heart. - Christina Baldwin]]>Thu, 27 Sep 2012 18:30:25 GMThttp://c4ranch.com/c4-chatter/intuition-always-has-our-best-interest-at-heart-christina-baldwinPicture
This morning I was getting my coffee and looking out the kitchen window. Belle caught my eye, as she so often does when the sun is hitting her coat - so much so that I reached for my camera to take the distant shot.  What I realized when I looked through the lens was that Belle, along with the other horses, was on point - ears perked and bodies stiff and ready - watching. 

I can always count on Belle to keep a close eye on things.  No trespasser - human or otherwise - can get past her. I turned my attention in the direction the herd was looking and, sure enough, something that wasn't part of our ranch family was hopping back and forth across the far fence.  Fortunately we were far enough away that the Corgi Boys didn't notice anything so I put them up for safe keeping and grabbed the shotgun. I wasn't sure what I would find because a few days ago I witnessed a couple of coyotes chasing a white cat that has taken up residence here. (Einstein the cat was still here yesterday so you can stop imagining the worst.)  

The question I should have asked myself at this point (but didn't) was "what did you bring the gun for?".  Looking back on the situation, I suppose it was a prop to make me look tougher than I am, because I have no idea if it was even loaded and am not gun savvy enough to feel comfortable checking!  (I can shoot a target - moving or stable - but apparently I am a pampered Annie Oakley since I've never loaded my own gun.  This is now at the top of my "skills to learn" list.)

I had the distance of a couple football fields to walk but
kept looking at the last spot where I had seen movement as I made my way. The next thing I knew, Belle was standing on her back legs and began a quick dash towards the woods as she came down. She stopped at the edge of the property as
quickly as she has started. She stood in that spot for a few minutes and then did what I call the "Belle Dance". It really should be called the "something is not right here and hurry to me" dance because she only does it when she's worried. 

Once I got near the horses, Belle made her way to me and did her dog trick.  She is as good at pointing as any hunting dog, just not quite as stealth.  There in front of me, just past the trees, was a precious little deer - on the ground, stuck in the brush, and terrified. 

I'm not sure if he had been playing with other deer or running from something but he was clearly stuck now and a prime target for the coyotes I had recently seen. I'm not sure who was more jumpy - me or him - but after a few EEEEEKs from both of us, I was able to loosen the hold the branches had on him and he quickly disappeared.

I gave Belle a big hug and leaned on her strong neck for a minute. Then, as if nothing had happened, Belle turned and went back to the herd who had all put their heads down and begun grazing again. Were they blind? Did they not just see me save a life? Why were they not as exhilarated by this experience as I was???

I'll tell you why - because in nature, instinct and intuition rule. Challenges and threats are part of every day and animals make decisions based on what they know instinctively to be best. They groom and guard each other. The protect their
family and their friends from predators. They are loyal and forgiving. They choose their leaders for their strength and accomplishments. The teach their young to be able to stand on their own and they respect their elders. Belle used her communication skills to let me know my part in the rescue
of this little guy. To her and the rest of the herd, there was no act of heroism, just a responsibility to another being.

So.....in true human fashion, I  humbly walked back to the barn where I told Tank and Jag about my noble feat.  (If I use the right tone, they think anything I tell them is incredibly newsworthy!) 

  





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<![CDATA[One person caring about another represents life's greatest value. -- Jim Rohn]]>Tue, 18 Sep 2012 14:10:39 GMThttp://c4ranch.com/c4-chatter/one-person-caring-about-another-represents-lifes-greatest-value-jim-rohnPicture
Bobbie's recovery from the snake bite last week has been slow but I'm happy to report that she is improving daily.  At first her coordination was really off, making it difficult for her to walk a straight line into her stall or even stroll through the pasture without running into the fence. We wanted to close her in a stall to prevent this but the steroid she has been on for the snake bite had her pacing and anxious.  Instead of locking her up, we did the next best thing - we put Rey in the small pasture with her.

Rey is a four year old foal out of Bobbie.  She is gentle and cautious and has never stopped showing her admiration and affection for her mom. Even under normal circumstances, they spend a lot of time together. At some point it changed from Bobbie looking after Rey to Rey watching over Bobbie. For instance, when the herd moves from the front of the property to the back pond, Bobbie's pace is slower than the rest so she lags behind.  It's not unusual to see Rey standing between Bobbie and the others patiently waiting on her. 

When we put her in the pasture with a pitiful, snake bitten Bobbie that couldn't hold her head up or walk a straight line, we hoped she would protect her and reduce the obvious stress Bobbie was under. She did not disappoint us. That first day when I witnessed Rey watching Bobbie's every move and quickly putting herself between a fence or gate or tree and  Bobbie when she would begin to lose her balance, I was humbled. Rey hardly ate. She just stood close by and watched over her mother.  She let Bobbie lean on her when she slept (Bobbie was not coordinated enough to lay down for several days) and Rey would guide her to the water trough now and then. When we called them to the barn so that we could give Bobbie her shots, Rey would walk her safely into the corral and wait to escort her back to the pasture. 

It's been a week and Bobbie is doing very well.  She is holding her head up. Those big brown eyes have never been more beautiful. She's regained her strength and along with it, her coordination.  I'm sure the prescriptions had a great deal to do with this miraculous recovery, but I can't help but believe that Rey's attentiveness and calm were the real medicine.

Once again, the more I pay attention, the more I am amazed.  This week Rey reminded me that patience and compassion are invaluable in our relationships - as friends, parents, children, partners, even strangers .... yep, I'm being schooled by a four year old horse.

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<![CDATA[Snake in the grass - literally.]]>Thu, 13 Sep 2012 18:02:10 GMThttp://c4ranch.com/c4-chatter/snake-in-the-grass-literallyA few nights ago we were out back throwing a frisbee with the dogs as we do most evenings. Tank and Jag were barking happily and we were enjoying the breeze and the first reasonable temperature in ages.
 
The herd was out by the pond, all but Bobbie.  She was making her way towards us.  At first I thought she was just coming to say hello like she usually does (in hopes of a carrot) until I realized that she was holding her head unusually low and to the side. Her eyes were heavy and so sad looking. Something was definitely wrong. She was coming to ask for help.

She gladly followed me into the corral but never lifted her head, even when she did her normal "talking" to ask for some grain. We put a small feeder on the ground to see if she indeed had an appetite and were pleased that she went straight to eating. From her posture we feared she had wrenched her neck or her back and treated her accordingly but by the next morning it was obvious that we were wrong. Our old girl had been bitten by a snake. 

Her lip had swollen to several times it's normal size and the fang marks were now clearly visible. Her huge, painful lip made eating and drinking difficult and she had no sense of balance. She didn't appear to be cognizant of her surroundings and was not responding to normal communication.

The vet gave her fluids using a bucket of water, a hose and a pump - a method I had never seen. This Macgyver move saved us from having to haul her when she was in no shape to stand in a moving trailer. He gave her shots of antibiotic and steroids and left us with twelve days of syringes. He expects her to be fine and although I was terrified that the 12 hours that had past would be catastrophic for her, he felt we had actually caught it early.

Shortly after he left, she made her way to the water trough (even though we had a water bucket conveniently on the floor of her stall) and I was thrilled to see her swallowing several big gulps. We had put Rey in the corral with her because we knew her company would be comforting. We witnessed Rey guiding Bobbie away from harmful objects and standing quietly by when she rested. I'd seen mares do this with their foals but it was so sweet to see Rey do this with her dam.

What I really found amazing was what my friend Sandy and I witnessed next. The walk to the trough obviously took all the energy Bobbie had, so she just stood there - head still low and eyes almost closed.  Kit was on the other side of the fence by the trough watching her closely.  Both of these young mares, Kit and Rey, stretched their necks down to meet Bobbie's face and proceeded to gently lick her mouth right where she had been bitten. Their three heads remained connected for several minutes while Bobbie stood motionless enjoying their care.

I understand that animals can sense when something is wrong, but it still astounds me that they knew exactly where she was hurting. Nature is phenomenal. That includes "us humans" although I think we let a lot of things muddy up our instincts and intuition.

We rose especially early this morning to give the poor girl her first set of shots for the day. She teetered a bit when I first started leading her but she quickly got her rhythm.  She's eating and drinking and the swelling has gone down considerably. Her eyes are brighter and she's seeming more like her old self.

The vet says we're lucky that this is our first snake bite in the nine years we've been here.  I'm sure sweet Bobbie isn't feelng too lucky...
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<![CDATA["..., smile because it happened.” - Dr. Seuss]]>Mon, 03 Sep 2012 15:20:41 GMThttp://c4ranch.com/c4-chatter/-smile-because-it-happened-dr-seussA good friend of mine recently asked, "What makes you smile?" Ever since the question was put to me I've been paying attention to the things that bring joy to my heart. If truth be told, I'm a bit of a country dork and my city friends would heartily agree if they could see inside my head.

After a walk with the boys this morning that had me smiling the whole time, I decided to keep track, just for today, and write down the things that made me smile.  Here goes:

- I woke up this morning with a headboard! It's made out of a door that hung in the original 1930s home once on this property.   I smiled because I refurbished it months ago and it's been leaning on my bedroom wall waiting for my husband to put it up.  Yesterday I wondered why on earth I was waiting on him.  I have a brain, two hands and HIS tools!

- An unexpected quick visit from our oldest daughter made me beam. I was able to meet her  friends from school that  I've heard so much about and discover that they are just as wonderful as she said.

- I couldn't help but laugh out loud watching Tank reunite with his aforementioned girlfriend.

- I had a phone conversation with our youngest daughter that was full of confidence, laughter, accomplishments and goals. A happy child makes a VERY happy mom.

- Two crazy Corgis butts wagging always make me smile. This time it was because they know a camera in my hands means an unhurried walk around the property for them.

- The flowers I planted yesterday were still there!!!  I thought for sure Belle would have had them for breakfast.

- The two gallon jugs of 20% vinegar on the barn table that I picked up yesterday made me smile because it means my organic-minded husband has completely worn off on me.

- I found a pallet in a "storage" pile that I  could turn into a coffee table like Sarah did on "Sarah's House" (HGTV). After all, I'm a pro now that I've installed my headboard, and again, I have his tools.

- Beau was covered in shavings which means he got a good night's sleep in his stall.

- The smell of the fresh shavings I put in Beau's stall for tonight conjured up memories of Rea's Barn and playing in the sawdust pile.  

- Abby the cat talking to me from the top of the shed where the Corgiboys can't reach her deserved a giggle.

- Too much HGTV had me thinking about turning the dilapidated shed into a cool chicken coop.

-  That got me to wondering how in the world I could keep the Corgiboys from torturing these imagined chickens. Chicken herding Corgis had me laughing.

- A job well done that resulted in a clean water trough for the horses put a smirk on my face.

- Jag inspecting the clean trough brought on the laughter.

- The view of a half-mowed pasture made by smile and realize that, by definition, ranch work is never done.

- Our persimmon tree weighted down with perfectly beautiful fruit would have made Julia Childs grin.

- Wondering what the heck I do with persimmons made me think of Frank from college and his grandmother that made the best persimmon pudding....or was that rhubarb pie? Either way, I was smiling thinking about it.

 - I sat on my parent's old bench while I watched the dogs cool off in the pond. Thoughts of my parents brought on a tearful smile. I was one lucky girl.  

- Watching my husband on his John Deere, completely oblivious to the fact that he's so covered in grass and dirt that he resembles George Hamilton before the gray hair, made me laugh.

- The smell of fresh cut grass...and horse manure made me smile. (Horses really can say that their poo doesn't stink!)

- Jag made me proud when (on the third try) he learned that if he barks at a horse I've tied in the barn, he goes back inside. The first two times I grabbed his collar and walked him to the door.  The third time he walked himself and waited for me to let him in.  He immediately barked to be let out and came out slowly with his nose in the air as if to say, "horse?  What horse?"  (Tell me you're not smiling too!)

- I thought of Jake (our first Cangelose family Corgiboy) when I passed his grave, marked with a metal sculpture of a Corgi Fairy. Years later, every thought of him still makes me smile. Adding to that amusement, I remembered Cam recently learning about the myth of Corgi saddles for fairies and laughing hysterically.

- Our crepe myrtle showing its appreciation for this summer's rain with tons of blooms had me looking in awe.

- Giving Bobbie a bath AND staying dry because I replaced our old "Jaggified" hose with a new dog proof one really had me smiling.

- I smiled at Jag for being terrified of the gunfire next door and wanting me inside with him.  (And I smiled again because I was thrilled to be needed INSIDE because it's 101 degrees outside.)

- I stopped to look at the painting Kels did of Cameron and Beau when she was twelve that  hangs in our den....that made me go look at the one of Jake in our room done around the same time. I am still amazed at how well she captured their faces.  

- I love the C4 Ranch sign made out of a plow disk that Cam had made for her dad's birthday. (Which made me smile thinking of highlighting the artist on the blog soon because he's amazing)

- I smiled because my friend in Georgia asked when I was making my flight reservations. - Not "are you coming?" but "when?"!

- I laughed at Jag sleeping at the back door holding one of his twelve Frisbees so he'd be sure not to miss an opportunity if we headed outside....and at Tank lying on the back of the sofa hoping we didn't go outside again and disturb his nap.

- I smiled a satisfied smile at the clean smell of orange oil when I mopped my floor.
 
- I'm smiling now at myself trying to find the right spot on my beloved rustic kitchen table for my water bottle to sit steadily while I type this. 

Hmmmmm. This is reading a bit like a gratitude journal. I suppose that makes sense because we should be grateful for the things that make us smile. The lesson here for me personally is that it's the little things that  keep me smiling on the inside. There's nothing monumental listed here. In theory, all I should have to do is  pay attention in order to find something that makes me feel good enough to smile. Implementing this strategy when life plants a hurdle in front of me will be the test.  That fact also makes me smile. 

Life, no matter how simple, gives us a bounty of things at which to smile. What's making you smile today? 
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<![CDATA["Beau Bieber" ]]>Mon, 27 Aug 2012 22:17:41 GMThttp://c4ranch.com/c4-chatter/beau-bieberI walked outside with the Corgi boys first thing this morning -
in an oversized Volleyball T-Shirt that I’ve used as a nightshirt for years and my knee-high rubber boots. (I just wanted you to enjoy my glamorous moment with me.) Beau spotted me immediately and managed to make me feel absolutely beautiful – he tossed his head at Sugar (my biggest competition for his attention) and did his  cute Tennessee Walker jog over to where I stood.  I stroked his huge face and stood on my tiptoes to give him a hug. This is how we start most of our days.

Beau followed me in the corral and made his way into the nearest stall. There he started his ritual of pushing his nose back and forth across the stall door, making the metal rails  clang, just in case I had forgotten my part of the bargain.  Beau is what is known as an “Easy Keeper” – a polite way to say he gains weight if he looks at food.  In horses, being tubby can lead to serious hoof problems (among other things) so we have a routine with Beau to help monitor his intake. 

He comes in during the day and we let him back out in the evening so he can graze when the grass sugars are not as high. His reward for being so cooperative is a cup of his favorite feed. (No, the irony of a huge horse being thrilled with one cup of feed is not lost on me.) In addition, he gets the comfort of a cushioned floor, a breeze from the fans, and enough hay to keep him busy.  He usually takes a nap in the shavings, checks out all the stalls, plays with Gibbs the cat, and tosses his Kong toy around the corral. 

Inevitably at some point during the day, at least one of the girls will come to the gate and ask to join him. Our old mares, Sugar and Bobbie, are always welcome but we let Beau  decide if he wants to be bothered with the younger mares.  They have such crushes on him! You could say he’s the Justin Bieber of the C4 Ranch. We truly believe that’s a big part of why he so willingly trades 50 acres of pasture for the solitude of the corral every day.  It’s his personal man cave.

Beau remains calm and patient all day. If I walk through the barn, he meets me at a stall window and talks in his soft,  deep voice. He closes his eyes when I rub his face and he leans his ears towards me so I’ll scratch them. But as soon as dusk hits, he starts pacing the fence. The mares show up at the corral gate like clockwork to join him. The neighing“chatter” is non-stop until we open the gate – and of course if we take too long, Derby gets busy on the latch.  Once he’s free, he usually kicks up his heels and acts like the girls are annoying him as he trots into the back pasture. However, if you watch closely, you’ll see him looking back to make sure they are following…..and they ALWAYS are. 

I delight in the fact that Beau knows that he can count on us to do what’s best for him. He never seems to question our intentions. Just now when I went out to check on him, I was inspired to say “thank you” to him which is what got me blogging today. I may be taking care of him by making sure that he eats right and gets the best care for his feet,  but  he’s the gentle giant showing me patience and kindness and trust. He makes the job of caretaker easy. Now if he’d just have a chat with his groupies.....
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<![CDATA[“Cowgirl Up” Already]]>Sun, 19 Aug 2012 15:18:17 GMThttp://c4ranch.com/c4-chatter/cowgirl-up-already I wake up every morning to a view of the herd in the pasture.  I wear perfectly worn-in jeans and dusty cowboy boots. Mucking a barn full of stalls and emptying full wheelbarrows into the compost is the best medicine I know for what ails you. I clean hooves, brush the dirt off of eight good size horses and tend to  any wounds.  Scrubbing and filling two 100 gallon water troughs is an everyday chore in the summer. Walking the pasture to meet up with Beau and bring him in the barn is part of our morning routine to protect him from his sensitivity to grass sugars. We finish off that routine by grabbing a bale of hay or alfafa and throwing a couple leaves into his stall. 
 
If you just peeked in on me in the midst of my chores, you’d think I was a real cowgirl. But if you stood there a little longer and looked a little closer, you’d see me kiss every nose in the herd.  You’d see me lay my face on that beautiful flat spot between their eyes and talk to them. You’d probably hear me sing “My Girl(s)” at the top of my lungs with my arms around Beau’s neck watching his harem with him – or worse yet, “Candy Girl” (Sugar, ahhhh honey, honey) while laying on Sugar’s back enjoying the warmth of the sun. If it was a hot Texas day, you’d most likely catch me pulling out the hose to cool off my water lovers (even though they have two large ponds to dip in).  I have, quite accidentally, taught my originals (Sugar,Beau and Belle) to come to the back door and knock for a carrot. When we sit out back in the evening, Derby and Kit come on the patio and try to join us at the table. Kit wants a sip of wine.  Derby wants to sit in your lap.

In other words, I violate the personal space rule by allowing them to invade mine constantly. This is against all Cowboy codes.  The reasoning is simple:(1) safety is not possible when you’re laying your face on the head of a 1200 pound animal that may decide to look up (2) boundaries are essential when you are establishing who is in charge, which leads to (3) it's imperative that you are the alpha horse if you want to avoid broken bones and unnecessary bruises.  Horses, however sweet, are bigger and heavier than, well, YOU. Compare horsing around with a horse to see-sawing with a sumo wrestler - unless you convince him to put you down gently, you're in trouble.

I have basically turned our herd of horses into big dogs. Now that it’s time for our youngest ones to go into training, I am worried about how they will do with a real cowboy - someone that expects them to act like horses.  This is especially a concern with Rey. She is all cow horse – born and bred to work with cattle – no doubt she’s going to excel and LOVE her job….but she’s sensitive and sweet so I’m worried about her  "f e e l i n g s”. (I can hear the  cowboy population howling with laughter.) Even as I'm typing this, I'm hoping my horse friends don't read this far.

I’m professing this whimpiness to you because it’s time for me to COWGIRL UP! Putting it in writing makes me somewhat accountable. Our herd is well-bred and bright. They are healthy, completely socialized with humans and horses alike, and move beautifully. They amaze me every day with their communication and problem solving skills. The only thing holding them back is ME - a proud mom having a hard time letting her kids grow up. It's time for me to stop protecting them and allow them to shine. I’m taking back my personal space and throwing them out into the real world!………....tomorrow.
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<![CDATA[Skunked...AGAIN.]]>Sun, 17 Jun 2012 22:12:35 GMThttp://c4ranch.com/c4-chatter/skunkedagainLiving in the country sometimes stinks...especially with a dog that wakes up every day like Drew Barrymore on 50 First Dates, with no memory of the past. Jag has not met a horse he doesn't TRY to herd, a cat he doesn't chase, or a skunk he doesn't irritate. Apparently his failed attempts are not stored in his memory banks.

Belle has warned him many times, by lifting her front hooves and planting them right by his ear, not to try and pick her grazing spot. (Trust me, this is a warning, not a miss. My girl has aim.) Poor Gibbs, the barn cat, makes sure to hiss a warning and show his claws every time Jag invades his personal space. And skunks, well, they see him coming...

The first time Jag encountered a skunk, my husband was knocked over by the stench as the dog crossed the threshold into the house and made his way to our bed....I was woken from a dead sleep by the assault on my senses and kicked them BOTH out of the house.

If you have never experienced the smell of a true skunking, you are grossly unaware of just how life altering it is OR how strongly your smeller is attached to your gag reflex. It's one thing to drive by skunk road kill - it's quite another to have skunk oil permeate your skin, every fiber in your home, even your jewelry. (a week after this first episode I grabbed my watch and bracelet off a high shelf in my bedroom and donned them. A few hours later, in a meeting with my employer, I was sniffing and distracted by a stench.  I finally narrowed it down to the jewelry on my arm and was MORTIFIED. I had to explain to this skeptical city boy that I did bathe on a regular basis.) A bad skunking burns your eyes, your nose, your throat....and it makes kids home for some parent pampering run back to school.

When my husband witnessed Jag putting his nose in the rear of a skunk again yesterday morning, he knew better than to let this boneheaded dog back in the house.....he also had the sense to create a work emergency and leave as quickly as humanly possible. My poor older daughter, Cameron, was home for Jag's first tango with a skunk and again for this one.  We both considered leaving Jag home alone and heading with Tank to Hotel Zaza.

Instead, I put on my de-skunking uniform (rubber boots, rubber gloves and throw away clothing) and she went into home freshening mode, mopping the floor with orange oil, lighting candles, buckets of Febreeze... I put Jag in the playpen we used when he and Tank were puppies - WAY out in the pasture under a tree. You couldn't even see him from the barn and somehow I felt better - like if I couldn't see him, surely I wouldn't have to smell him. Cameron, an old pro at this point, mixed up the vet suggested combination of hydrogen peroxide, baking soda and Dawn liquid. (The scientist in her decided that vinegar would be a great addition to this formula - and she was right - except for the explosive effects.  It was a little like uncorking a bottle of champagne without the buzz.) 

I proceeded to hop in the playpen with Jag and bath him with Cameron's concoction while she and Tank looked on. Tank was clearly disgusted with his brother.  He also had a bit of a cocky look because he knew what this meant - Jag would get no snuggle time in the near future - more for him! After the 15 minute "processing" requirement, we let Jag out and went to the pond to rinse off. 

We're a long way from the end of this cleansing - the effects linger for what seems like eternity. Jag knows he screwed up AGAIN and he's keeping his distance. After all, he smells the consequence of Skunk Wrangling much more intensely than his human family. Tank won't even sleep next to him! But has this experience improved Jag's decision making skills? Probably not.  We will no doubt have to pull out the hydrogen peroxide again.

Jag is not unlike a lot of us. Why do we not believe people or circumstances when they prove to us time and time again who or what they are?   Like the perpetually late friend - why do we get frustrated that they are late when they have never been on time for anything? Haven't they already shown you what their plan is?   Or the "true" liar - you know the one - that person who would make up a tale when the truth fits better. Why do we give them the benefit of the doubt  when they've already proven they prefer fiction? How many of you have walked up behind a skunk and yelled "BOO"... TWICE?!

Good old Dr. Phil says, "When people show you who they are, believe them". I think this applies to situations as well. Like Jag with the skunk, believing what we are shown removes a lot of unnecessary drama from our lives. Why be disappointed with that late friend you adore when you can just smile and ask them to meet you 15 minutes before you plan to arrive?!  
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<![CDATA["Look Mommy, that horse is blowing bubbles!"]]>Sun, 10 Jun 2012 19:52:06 GMThttp://c4ranch.com/c4-chatter/look-mommy-that-horse-is-blowing-bubblesI'm feeling pretty exposed.  I've been experimenting with this blog thing for three weeks. I’ve talked to a few friends about how uncomfortable I am with this whole process and they unanimously suggested that I address this issue with you, whoever “YOU” are. In truth, I don’t even know if I have an audience or how to go about getting one.

I thrive on relationships – family, friends, the lady at the Exxon that tells me Milkduds stick to her teeth, horse, dog – all kinds. I have definite opinions. I love to learn. I get great pleasure from taking a photograph and even more when someone viewing it is touched.  But writing my thoughts and thinking someone else might be interested in reading them?…..well, that’s a presumptuous and vulnerable place for me.
 
So why am I doing this? Simple and cheesy answer  –  I am trying to grow. Maybe this is my version of a mid-life crisis, although I’m pretty certain I’m past my personal mid-life. I prefer to think of it as me finally doing something that requires me to take a chance, risk embarrassment, hold my breath!  

The true goal here is to create children’s books. My passion for fueling a child’s literary appreciation comes directly from my mother. She didn’t encourage my brother and me to read – she required it. For her, it was as necessary as breathing. 
Learning fueled her and she could find a lesson in anything. (There were  days as a teenager that this was incredibly annoying!) She read to me from as far back as I can remember. Books were gifts to be treasured around our house. 

My brother was much better at showing her appreciation for this important lesson.  He always had a book in hand and amazing drawings came from his reading.  For me, I’m not sure she understood her influence on me until I had children of my own. My girls can tell you that I followed my mom’s example when they were little – I was on autopilot. It was ingrained in me and I was determined to ingrain it in them! I still tear up when I recall the first day that my oldest read confidently out loud to her dad, her voice getting stronger and more excited with every word….or the memory of my youngest sitting up in her crib before she could talk, jabbering away while she turned the pages and made voice inflections just like I did when I read to her. As they grew up, I remember the complete joy I would experience when walking into a room to find one or both of them engrossed in a book. 

I have a terrific family. It’s made up of a colorful, loving husband who is the happiest redneck I know, a daughter that is the most focused and determined individual in my world, another daughter that makes no concessions that would
cause her to lose her stunning individuality and who is  unknowingly influencing me to do this, two Welsh Corgi pups that make me laugh every day, eight horses that are still trying to figure out why they aren’t invited in to watch TV with us and a barn cat named Gibbs that is crafting his way into my heart. My life is full. And I am happy. 
 
So we’re back to why – why am I putting myself out there when life is good and I am so uncomfortable saying “Look at ME” (the true social media curse)?  My motives are selfish. I want to make a child say, “Look, Mommy! That horse is blowing bubbles!” while pointing to a moment I captured with my camera.  I want to share my love of animals and the happiness mine bring me. I want to encourage observation and the use of it to increase appreciation of the every day journey. I want to take Mary Oliver's  advice from her poem Instructions for living a life that I referred to in my first blog attempt:  "Pay attention. Be amazed. Tell about it."

This blog was suggested by my friend Leslie who believes in me probably more than I do myself. She is the energy, the organizer, the motivator I have needed to make this step. She has suggested that networking through the social media is the best place to start. And although this self-promotion makes me feel completely vulnerable, she has convinced me that I need an audience to get to know me and trust that I have something to offer. The old saying, “nothing ventured, nothing gained” is indeed true. Failure is not a possibility if I don’t even try. 

SOOOOOOOO, do you “like” me? (Okay, that made me LOL at
myself!)
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<![CDATA["He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother" - The Hollies]]>Fri, 08 Jun 2012 01:20:52 GMThttp://c4ranch.com/c4-chatter/he-aint-heavy-hes-my-brother-the-holliesOur dogs are the perfect example of polar opposites. If you’ve visited the Corgi Boys page on this website or read  some of the past blogs in C4 Chatter then you have had a small introduction to our boys’ personalities. 

Tank appears to be laid back and nonchalant but quietly demands attention and affection. Jag is a wild thing if you are opening the cleaning closet or playing a game of fetch but the first to settle down at the end of the day.  If we sit  on the sofa, Jag finds his place on the back near our heads -  close but separate.  Tank cocks his head and whines until you make room for him, jumps up next to you and puts his head ON you.....your leg, your shoulder, somewhere ON you. (Let me try to give you a visual: If Jag is in your lap, it's his whole body sitting up straight and it feels like you're holding a two pound Chihuahua. He doesn't lick you or invade your space. If Tank is in your lap, he has his head clamped down on some part of your body and feels like a 200 pound Saint Bernard. If you attempt to move, he increases the pressure. He only needs a sign that says "MINE!" to finish the picture. Oh, AND you're getting a bath whether you need one or not.) 

Jag is extremely sweet and affectionate but he seems to understand that Tank is needier in that department and graciously allows him priviledged access.  Even in bed (yes, they sleep with us and we KNOW this is a no-no and frankly don't care), Jag is at our feet and doesn't move.  Tank's face will greet you on the pillow and he periodically gets up to rearrange the covers. Even during the day he will go to a room to take a nap and literally cry for you to come hang out with him. In other words, Tank thinks he is a prince and should be treated like royalty. Jag is perfectly comfortable stepping aside and allowing Tank his throne INSIDE. (Outside royalty is another blog subject.) This  hierarchy is the general rule.

However, they say there is an exception to every rule.  In the case of the boys, it is the Thunder and Lightening Escape Clause. Tank, like us, thinks a storm is a great time to relax and listen to the sounds of rain and thunder. Jag, on the other hand, thinks he has stumbled into a war zone.  It's at this time that Tank takes a distinct back seat.  He makes a conscious effort to back away and make room for Jag to have a whole lap. OR if Jag finds a dark spot to hide and tremble, Tank will lay in front of him as if to say, "I'm right here if you need me".

I witnessed this with awe when we had the tornado scare a couple months ago and again last night during the storm. Rain was coming sideways at the windows and the pounding on the tin roof was loud. The lightening was very close and the thunder following was deafening.  We lost power and all the horses were hovering under the porch overhang.  (They have the option of their stalls, but apparently like to be close to us when the weather is wicked. Rey literally plasters her nose to the door window begging to come in!)

Jag was terrified.  In preparation for the rain, we had gone outside to check the barn and I tripped over him twice in his attempt to become one with me.  When we got in the house, he jumped in my lap, alert and trembling.  The normally invasive Tank jumped up next to me, but not ON me, and faced the opposite direction. Every now and then he would turn and lick Jag's face.  His concern for his brother was obvious and touching.

This went on for a couple of hours.  Not once during this period of Jag's terror did Tank even request any attention. I kept reaching over and petting him with a smile on my face because I was so proud.  My selfish little Tank was acting like a protective big brother. 

Eventually the storm was over and all was right in Corgi Boy World. Jag helped my husband close up the barn by making sure that our barn cat Gibbs' feet didn't touch the ground and barking loudly so the neighbor's cows would know that he survived. Once inside, he took his spot at the foot of the bed.  Tank quietly jumped to his place near the pillows and rearranged the covers before settling in for the night. Tomorrow was another day and Prince Tank had some throne time to recoup.
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<![CDATA[“Sometimes I need only to stand wherever I am to be blessed." - Mary Oliver ]]>Tue, 05 Jun 2012 19:00:44 GMThttp://c4ranch.com/c4-chatter/sometimes-i-need-only-to-stand-wherever-i-am-to-be-blessed-mary-oliverBelle's life reads like a script from a Lifetime movie - you know the ones - lots of drama and tears that result in a happy ending. I like to believe that I would sense this about her even if I didn't know the truth behind her eyes. She has MANY stories to tell, all of them proof to me that animals are loving, loyal, intuitive and not immune to emotional pain. There are too many tales to put in one day's blog - so I'll start at our beginning.

I "met" Belle at a barn where we first boarded Sugar and Beau, before the C4 Ranch existed. She came to the barn with a beautiful filly at her side name Skeeter. That little girl was adorable!  She was petite and playful, quite a contrast to her cautious and protective dam. Belle allowed only a few people to interact with her foal and she was only truly comfortable with her owners.  It was obvious that she had trust issues. Her owners spent some time telling me her incredible life story to date which included kidnapping, abuse, and subsequent rebellion.  It was their goal to be kind and gentle with her and prove to her that the world was not a bad place.

Skip ahead a couple of months to an awful accident at the barn that left Skeeter with permanent brain damage. The owners of these two horses did all they could to save Skeeter but sadly Belle came home from that last trip to the vet alone. 

I was managing the pasture horses in exchange for board of our two so I was on site a lot. I remember the next four days like it was yesterday.  Belle was released into her pasture and proceeded to run and scream until she had no voice. At first she would have nothing to do with me. She was crazed with anguish and continued searching and calling out for Skeeter. I sat on the fence for hours at a time watching over her and doing my own share of crying.  There was real concern that she would hurt herself so we all pitched in to help the owners keep an eye on her.  

On day two she noticed me. She changed her path, which was worn in the ground from the day before, to come by my spot at the fence. Even with her at a dead run, our eyes would meet. She continued to cry but almost no sound came out of her mouth. She would run until she was foamy with sweat and then run some more.  I didn't see her sleep at all.  She wasn't stopping at the trough. She wasn't grazing. Her grief was palatable. 

On the morning of day three, she watched me as I    climbed to what was now my place on the fence. She would run at me full pace and stop like a reining horse right in front of me, staring intently at me as if to ask why I cared and daring me to be afraid of her. This day, I was armed with a small bucket of water and a rag. After several passes and angry snorts, I think she realized I wasn't going anywhere. She stopped to sniff and thoroughly check me out. She slowly began to allow me little opportunities to touch her face with the cool cloth before she would take off again.

By the end of that day, she had taken a carrot from me and drank a little from the water bucket. She had been so unpredictable that I had known better than to get in the pasture with her, but now she was walking and tired and she invited me to join her. I'll never forget how overwhelmed with emotion I was when she leaned her heavy head into my chest and just stood there. I rubbed her neck and her face for what seemed like an hour and she didn't move.  I honestly think it was the first time she had rested in 3 days.
 
On the fourth day Belle was hoarse, exhausted and sad. She would take off every now and then, running and crying that guttural scream, but she spent most of my time there that day looking straight into my eyes or laying her head on my chest. She let me brush her and put water on her hot face and neck.  She cautiously allowed me to lead her to the trough. She was communicating volumes to me by letting me take care of her. Her sadness was profound but she had grown to trust me - and I had fallen in love with her.
Picture
Skeeter and Belle - Easter 2004
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<![CDATA[Don't Argue With Wikihow]]>Mon, 04 Jun 2012 03:33:26 GMThttp://c4ranch.com/c4-chatter/dont-argue-with-wikihowToday I am grateful for the patience Belle continually practices with Jag by snorting loudly and stomping her hoof forcefully on the ground instead of on his head. He barks and dances in front of her every time she walks by and most times she looks at me with the question in her eyes, “Can’t I just squash him?!”.

I am also grateful because my older daughter is feeling much
better and is looking forward to starting an externship in her chosen field  tomorrow…..I am grateful today that my youngest daughter called me to chat and had a smile in her voice because she’s started painting again…..I am grateful  that my husband, who had my mouth watering with thoughts of the meal he was planning to grill tonight, knew that I would be just as happy with peanut butter and crackers after he wore himself out mowing in this heat all day…I am grateful  that Rey wanted to hang out in the corral with Beau so he wouldn’t have to be alone…..I am grateful that I have clean sheets to crawl between tonight and that we have a “sleep” button on our TV remote because I love the comfort of  both…..I am grateful for the strength and accuracy of my hands today that allowed me to use the death slap on the three horse flies torturing Kit….I am grateful that the C4 turtle showed up today to entertain Tank and Jag and give us something to laugh out loud about….I am grateful for the view of the pasture and eight peaceful horses that I am looking at right now....and I am grateful to you for reading this blog and giving my words an audience.

You may be wondering what kind of blog post this is – what
purpose my gratitude list could possibly be serving. I just wanted to share another tool I’m using in my attempt to pay more attention. One of my husband's cousins has used a gratitude journal for years.  (There are days she’s grateful that the car won't start so she can’t run over her husband on his way out the door  -  but grateful is grateful.) It  has become part of her daily routine and the focus she has on her surroundings is astounding.  She is so aware of  her own strengths, weaknesses, curses and blessings that she is able to avoid imposing harsh or quick judgments on others. She looks at things in a unique and  positive way and has empathy where it’s warranted. She is my “go to” person because she approaches life logically and with appreciation. I have watched her grow immensely since starting her daily gratitude journal routine. Now I’m FINALLY starting my own in hopes of a similar journey. 
 
You will be amazed at the guidelines and examples you’ll find  if you GOOGLE “Gratitude Journal”.  I’m still figuring out exactly how I want to structure mine but I’m determined to make a habit of writing down at least ten things I’m grateful for – and why –each day. I may include some of my entries here occasionally but I promise this is not turning into a “Gratitude Blog”!  I’m simply sharing this goal with  you in the hopes of inspiring you to do the same. After all, Wikihow says, “A gratitude journal is a great way to keep yourself in a thankful and positive state of mind".  Who are we to argue with Wikihow?!
 
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<![CDATA[No Sugar Substitute]]>Sat, 02 Jun 2012 20:39:49 GMThttp://c4ranch.com/c4-chatter/no-sugar-substituteCan one look from you make a 1200 pound Tennessee Walker go back in his playpen?  Yea, me neither.  I have watched our smallest and oldest mare, Sugar, run the show around here for years in complete awe. Horses have come and gone but the one constant has always been the mare in charge.  I tried to employ her techniques with my kids and husband but they do not respond well to head tossing and stern looks and I could never figure out how to flatten my ears back. She hardly ever resorts to physical contact but the threat is there if a member of the herd does not get the message.

Our gelding Beau towers over her but his massive size does not intimidate her even slightly. From the very first day  we brought them home together, she has been the ruler of his universe. When she got ridden and he was left behind in the pasture (with nine other horses for companionship I might add) he would pitch such a fit that we feared he was going to hurt himself. I, being a complete and total softy at the time, would halter him up and take him to where he could SEE her and he would immediately calm down. Sugar practically rolled her eyes at him as if to say "Silly boy", but you could tell she enjoyed the spell she had over him.  Back then she was his whole world. It's been years now. He has found his place in the herd and can survive with her out of sight, but he still adores her and Sugar continues to remind him daily who is in charge.

Beau is susceptible to grass founder, a condition that has painful and possibly deadly consequences. It is brought on by the high levels of sugar stored in seed heads in Spring and Fall. Because of this, Beau's pasture time is limited during these crucial times of year. The daily routine has been memorized by the herd. When it's time for Beau to be released, they are gathered by his gate.  When I call for him to come in, no one else rushes the entrance. 

However, there is always that herd mate - like that friend of your child's that thrives on mischief - that figures out a way to get them both into trouble. At the C4 Ranch, that little devil goes by the name of Derby. ("The Devil in Derby" may be a future blog title.) Just yesterday I watched from the window as Derby worked for twenty minutes unlocking the latch to Beau's corral. He anxiously observed her skills  from inches away and practically danced with Derby when the gate swung open......

Enter: Sugar. 

She had been grazing a few acres away when she witnessed  this great escape. She quickly made her way to the scene of the crime. Both Derby and Beau froze in their tracks when they saw her coming. She scolded them, tossing her head around, and herded Beau back into the coral.  Her rear was pointed at Derby in a threatening manner just daring her to intervene! However, the stance was unecessary.Derby's head was already hanging low in shame. Sugar stood guard at the gate until I got out there to lock it again, this time with my extra special Derby-proof loop.

Sugar waited for me to offer my thanks in the form of a hug and a kiss on her graying face and then went back to grazing. I was, as I always am, amazed at her confidence and conviction. She knows her "job" and she does it well. She is mother to our herd and she loves them all with a firm hoof. 

Most of us would benefit from going through life with Sugar's philosophies. She pays attention to what those around her need and realizes that what they want is not always what's best for them. She takes care of things quietly and with authority. She demands and gets respect because she operates with common sense as her guide. She is the epitome of an alpha mare.

I, for one, should take to heart the lessons I have learned from observing her. What about you? Are you paying attention?
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<![CDATA[Happy birthday to the Corgi boys...]]>Sat, 26 May 2012 13:52:52 GMThttp://c4ranch.com/c4-chatter/happy-birthday-to-the-corgi-boysFirst line in my Gratitude Journal on May 23rd was "thank you for Tank and Jag because they make us smile every day". The boys turned three this week and they are the ones that first made me appreciate the meaning of Mary Oliver's Instructions for a Life (refer back to day one). They demand my attention so they've taught me to be attentive. Whether Jag's happily jumping in the air for the 100th time to catch the Frisbee or Tank's gently laying his head on my shoulder while we watch TV, they amaze me.

To celebrate their birthday, we took a good size watermelon out by the pond. We sliced it like cake and scooped it like ice cream. We had as much fun watching them as they did eating it.  It was even worth getting up to go out with them four times during the night! My youngest daughter (who just turned 21) said it was only fitting - that in dog years,  it was their 21st birthday and it was tradition to drink too much.....
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<![CDATA[Uncle Carl]]>Thu, 24 May 2012 19:06:10 GMThttp://c4ranch.com/c4-chatter/uncle-carlI learned yesterday that Carl Moser, Sr. of Hickory NC is preparing his family before taking God's hand. You may know him as the  talented photographer whose works have been featured in The Kodak Collection, The Smithsonian, National Geographic, The Mint Museum and The Hickory Museum of Art. I know him simply as Uncle Carl - my mother's oldest brother and the heart of his family. 

He did not start out this life with a camera in hand. It started as a hobby and grew into a passion. He told my mom  that he discovered that he liked the honesty he got through the lens. It was once written about him that, "He took photographs to get to know people and have fellowship over the camera." I love that wording because it really captures who I think of when I think of my Uncle Carl.

He is a handsome man and a family man. He loves God and country with enthusiasm. He is gentle but direct.  He is someone I truly respect.  I've paid more attention to just who he is in recent years. This quiet, gentle man (unless of course you talk politics) has nurtured a relationship between the two of us and let me get to know him.  He doesn't say much but he gets his message across. He's told me twice that he loves me and although I already knew it, the truth in his voice has made invaluable memories.

He loves his family. He considers his ability to take a photo and have us see a  masterpiece a gift from God. He thinks that loyalty is a given in friendship and in love. He finds nature and people fascinating.
 
Now don't get me wrong.  Uncle Carl may read this and consider it "sap" if I don't tell you that he has not always been the most eloquent or disciplined with his words. Politics and religion are dangerous territory in the Moser family and there's not one of us that hasn't lost or given up on a discussion with him! They say we mellow with age and from the stories I've heard and some of what I  remember,  I would have to say this is the case with Carl Moser, Sr.  

What has remained constant is the pride he has in his family and the unconditional love he had for my Aunt Helen. Theirs was a true love story. He has always been bright and talented and drawn people to him. But, for me, the respect and admiration he showed for her was the true measure of a man. 

My prayers are with our family and all that have been touched by him. May your journey be brilliant, Uncle Carl.  Your time here certainly has been.
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<![CDATA["Just Deal"]]>Wed, 23 May 2012 17:20:26 GMThttp://c4ranch.com/c4-chatter/just-deal“Happiness is not the absence of problems,
it's the ability to deal with them.”

Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being
Free


A good friend is a person you can laugh through the tears with
and come out feeling blessed.  I had a conversation today with a woman that I am fortunate enough to call a good friend. She’s one of my favorite people. She loves fiercely, has fun with anyone who will join in (and even with those that resist), and she’ll fight for her loved ones - and her loved ones' loved ones - like a donkey protecting the herd! 

I loved her the moment I met her – and I have always admired her strength.  I just never really knew where it came from.  She has a huge, beautiful, self-proclaimed redneck family full of strong personalities and even stronger opinions….but, as I see it, she is the backbone. They defer to her on everything from  recipes to calf-pulling.  You’ll find her make-up free, dressed in a tee-shirt and jeans on any given day, but dolled up, she looks just like a movie star (you know who you are). 

What I learned today is that life dealt her some enormous challenges early on and she had a choice – crumble and lose OR spit in the face of everything in her way and have something to celebrate. She chose the latter and has never looked back.  We talked for over 2 hours while she  shared her story at my request. We both cried buckets AND laughed till our faces hurt.  

The details are not important.  What is important is that sometimes we are so intent on wallowing in the difficulties that we fail to see the blessings these problems bring. She and I have spent countless hours together discussing everything from horse poo to hormone creme. She never once wallowed in the hardships that helped make her who she is today. She finds happiness hiding under any challenge or problem and “just deals”. Because of this, she manages to have a true smile on her face most all the time. It translates boldy in how she interacts with everyone in her world.

Today, while listening to my friend laugh at the devil that has screwed with her life so often, I learned from her that we should all buck up to whatever challenge comes our way - meet it head-on - or back right into it  like a donkey and just let happiness sneak on in.  
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<![CDATA[I saaaaid "Pay Attention"!]]>Tue, 22 May 2012 14:03:08 GMThttp://c4ranch.com/c4-chatter/i-saaaaid-pay-attentionOur dog Jag saved my life at least a dozen times yesterday. I had no idea our home was such a dangerous place!  I’m not referring to the usual threats like the canine destroyer vacuum or the broom some witch is coming RIGHT back to claim out of the closet.  He was quick to point those out as always, but yesterday he was seeing danger EVERYWHERE.  Did you know that the orange wash cloth – NOT the white one - might eat your face? …..that the compost bucket is a hiding place for veggie monsters? …..or  that the laundry detergent is a flesh burning poison? By the end of the day, I was coming to the conclusion that living this long without his help was surely a miracle.

We were hours into this behavior before I realized that Jag’s real goal wasn’t to protect me at all – it was to wear me down. He was doing all his little Corgi brain could think of to drive me crazy. Unfortunately, Corgis are very smart dogs so the list of tortures was long. (My daughters would be quick to tell you that they are #11 on the canine intelligence scale.  I, on the other hand, am annoyed that they didn’t make the top ten.)

I figured out his plan when I picked up my camera and he FLEW off his sofa perch to the back door.  Like when my husband puts on his “ranchin’ shoes” (what kind of rancher wears a pair of worn out tennis shoes?!), throwing my camera strap over my head signals a trip outside.  Once we were out the door, that little 2 ½ ft x 1 ½ ft monster turned into a sweet butterfly chasing puppy with an actual smile on his face!  While I was looking through the lens, he occupied himself by swimming after a floating stick, rolling in the remnants of a skunk (ah, the joys of farm land), herding Libby back to the other horses, jumping over the fence rail to visit Beau and racing Tank to the cat’s water bowl.  It was like watching the Energizer Bunny on steroids.

Why am I telling you this?  Because my first post on this site was a message about “paying attention”.  After missing ALL of Jag’s signals yesterday, I guess we can clearly assume that I was not following my own advice. However, I AM trainable.  I am proud to say that we started out our day today by walking the pasture, mucking the stalls (the Corgi boys are a BIG help in this area), fetching the ball a few dozen times and rescuing sticks from drowning in the pond.  The end result – Jag is quietly watching me battle the dangers in this house from his perch on the sofa.  I am astonished!

How many simple "fixes" do I miss every day because I'm not paying attention?
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<![CDATA[Be Astonished Every Day!]]>Sun, 20 May 2012 20:50:43 GMThttp://c4ranch.com/c4-chatter/be-astonished-every-dayInstructions for living a life.
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.
― Mary Oliver

Do you pay attention?  Are you astonished?  If so, do you tell anyone about it? 

I'm pretty sure the fresh air here has the same properties as a bottle of red wine because I have finally found the courage to tell about the things that catch my attention. It takes little these days to astonish me. And that's not always a GOOD thing! For example, I'm as astonished (and entertained) by my husband's ability to piddle away HOURS on futile projects  -  like a vegetable garden in the middle of the horses' grazing pasture -  as I am with the beauty of the fog rising on our property every morning. 

I'm striving now to pay attention to everything and everyone around me. I've spent a lot of years with my head down trying to check things off of my "to do" lists. (and YES, I confess that I still love to cross through things on a list). But it's not the errands and chores on those lists that give me memories.  It's the times I look up and pay attention to what or who is around me.   

I'll put it all out on the barn floor for you. I hope I can inspire you to adopt Mary Oliver's Instructions for a Life -  Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.
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