I knew something bad was going to happen when I saw Chris take the passports out of the safe. Oh no, they were about to abandon this poor dog again! Every time I see that passport, I know Stuart and Chris are going on one of their trips.
Where to this time? Hong Kong, India, maybe even exotic Pasadena? I don't know, but I know I'm in for a case of the lonelys. They packed their bags, got dressed real nice, gave Sassie, Hummer, Jimbo, me and the rest of the dogs a big hug and said, "see you guys in a couple of weeks," and they were out the door.
Well it's not as if we were really abandoned. When they leave, they always leave Gary, the ranch hand, to take care of us. But it's not the same, I miss my family already.
A few days later Gary came down the driveway leading a big mule and a small donkey. He introduced the mule as "George," and the donkey as "Skyrocket." He put them both in the back pasture where there are no horses and told us we could play with them if we wanted to. Now George is about as much fun as playing with an 800 pound rock, but Skyrocket is something else!
We taught Skyrocket to play tag. First we'd chase Skyrocket around the pasture, then Jimbo would bark at Skyrocket, then Skyrocket would chase Jimbo, then Hummer would chase Jimbo and me and then Skyrocket would chase Hummer and Sassie and Hummer and I would chase Skyrocket and then George would get mad and chase all of us dogs out of the pasture. Boy that was sure fun!
Quickly the weeks passed and before you knew it Chris and Stuart were home. When George saw them he started hee-hawing loudly. Stuart yelled, "What the heck are those things doing here?"
Gary came running and explained, "This mule and this donkey were going to be orphans. Their people were moving away and abandoning them. The county was going to take them away and make them into Kal Kan! I just put them into the unused pasture temporarily until I could find them a new home, it should only take a few weeks, I promise."
Stuart turned to me and said, "P.C., why did you let this happen?" And then he angrily walked away.
Why did I let this happen? Hey, maybe we've all forgotten something, I'm a dog. Nobody put me in charge of this dog and donkey show. Why do I always get blamed for everything? Every time the room smells funny, it's always my fault.
We dogs may not be perfect, we are known to have bad breath and we have hair between our toes and we sometimes have alternate uses for a toilet, but so what! We also have a lot of good things going for us. It is generally accepted that we are renowned for devotion, integrity and spirit. We even help you humans raise your children. We help them learn loyalty, trustworthiness and how to turn around three times before they lie down. Actually we dogs are pretty great. If you humans were half as great as most of us dogs, you'd be building statues of you in the park. And I won't even tell you what we dogs think statues are good for!
Unfortunately, two weeks later we got a call from Gary who was calling from Crescent City, California and told us he had accepted an offer from his brother-in-law to join him on his fishing boat. Well, I admit fishing probably would be a lot more fun than cleaning out horse's stalls, but he sure gave short notice.
Then there was the matter of George and Skyrocket. They were still out there munching their way through the pasture fence.
About a month later, Stuart got a call from a gentleman who asked, "Is that there yur mule and donkey out in that field?" After Stuart assured him they were, the man asked "ya wanna sell 'em?"
Stuart got this cagey look on his face, and said, "Oh I might consider it, what would you offer for them?"
He replied, "Well, I ain't got no money."
Stuart explained to him that this fact seriously undermined his bargaining position, and the fellow replied, "I can trade."
"Okay," Stuart said, "I love trade, what do you have to trade?"
"Well, I got this here mirror," he replied.
"Sorry, but I have plenty of mirrors," Stuart told him. "I don't need any more mirrors."
"No no, not mirrors--MIRRORS!, ya."
"Oh, I understand, a MARE, I guess we could use another horse, we've been looking for a guest horse for guests to ride. Is this a gentle horse?"
"Oh sure." He told him, "my kids ride her."
He then told us that his name was Jedediah and gave us directions on how to find him. The directions took us down this road near our house. We had been down part of this road before, but never this far down. The people we encountered along this road started looking rougher and rougher the further we went, and Chris started to become afraid and said, "this looks like a scene out of the movie Deliverance!" I gave her a lick on the face, which seemed to calm her down.
The pavement turned to gravel which turned to dirt then to mud. When we finally found Jedediah at the fork in the road that he had told us about, we thought we were lost for sure.
Nothing had prepared us for this confrontation with Jedediah. Here was this man of perhaps 30 years, dressed like a modern day Daniel Boone! He was completely clad in buckskin, even his hat and his shoes. He carried a flintlock rifle and a powder horn and all the other trappings of a mountain man from the mid 1800s.
Chris looked at this anachronism and told him, "you should have told us this party was costume, and I would have worn my Valkyrie outfit."
Jedediah explained that he and his family were not comfortable in the modern world, which gave them the perfect opportunity to choose the kind of world that suited them. They concluded that they were very fortunate to be afforded a choice of lifestyles, and this is what they wanted. It suited them perfectly. Well, different strokes for different folks, and all that.
We asked where he had the horse, and he said, "Up the road apiece."
"Within walking distance?"
Jedediah thought about that for a while and replied, "Yep, but it would be about a two hour walk." So we invited Jedediah into the Jeep and started down the road. That's when we all got a good whiff of him. He smelled just like he looked, like an 1800s mountain man. And there was something familiar about his scent, I just couldn't place it. Chris didn't try to place it, she just rolled down the windows.
We came to this beautiful clearing in the forest, and in the center was this gray Appaloosa horse. She had a perfect blanket of white snow across her rump and was tied by a long rope to a stake. She had grazed all of the grass within her reach and I immediately felt sorry for her, she was so lean that you could count every rib. Jedediah said that she was about six years old and her name was Misty. This was a perfect name for this horse, Misty had a far away look in her eyes.
Stuart said she looked like she was well put together and she probably wasn't any bigger than 14 hands at the withers. ''14 hands'' means that she is about 4' 8" tall, and "withers" refers to the bump on top of a horse, behind their necks and in front of the saddle. I didn't used to know all this horse talk, but I'm getting to be a pretty savvy country dog now, huh?
Chris asked if she could ride her and Jedediah told her, "I'll hafta get a saddle," whereupon he strode off into the forest. He was back in about a half-hour carrying a saddle and leading his wife and three girl children. They were all in costume as well. He very formally introduced his wife as Becky and the girls as Martha, Sarah and Ruth in descending order. Jedediah put the saddle on Misty and took her for a little ride then he turned the horse over to Chris, who took her for a longer ride and seemed generally impressed.
Chris rode over to Jedediah and asked him if the horse knew how to back up. Jed thought for awhile and then said, "ma'am, iffin 'ya want this here horse ta back up, what ya gotta do is ta say just the right words ta her. What ya gotta say is, ya gotta lean down so's this here horse can here ya, and ya gotta say, ya gotta say, 'back up.'"
Chris said, "back up," and Misty proudly marched backwards.
Chris asked Jedediah why he wanted to trade this horse for the mule and the donkey. Jed explained that Becky's folks were back in Montana and they wanted to go visit. They planned on walking there, keeping to the hills and mountains all the way. He figured that a packhorse would force them to come down occasionally to buy hay and get the horse shod, and they didn't really want to do that. So they figured that the mule and the donkey could forage off the land and they would never need shoes.
Chris, Stuart and I had a private conference and agreed that Misty seemed to be an excellent horse and that we should accept Jed's offer. Stuart told this to Jedediah who complained, "Not so quick, ya slick horse trader you, I never see'd them critters of yours up close. Every time I got close your dogs run me off."
Yeah, yeah, yeah! Now I remember where I smelled him before, we had run him off a couple of times.
So back in the Jeep and back to the ranch to let Jed check out Skyrocket and George. He checked them extremely carefully and pronounced them fit. He said he would bring the horse over in the morning about 9 o'clock. We thought that he had changed his mind about the trade, when about 1:30 p.m. here comes Jedediah down the driveway leading Misty.
"Hey, where have you been? You're way late Jed." Stuart asked.
Jedediah bent his head back about as far as it would go, sighted the sun and said, "yep."
We made the trade, but that's not the end of the story. Misty turned out to be a great horse, but not suitable for our purpose. She was so spirited that most of our guests couldn't be allowed on her back. We really didn't need another eventing horse so Chris traded her again to this neighbor who loved her. The neighbor painted exquisite works of the redwoods and sold them for thousands of dollars. Chris picked out the best one and gave it to Stuart for his birthday.
Misty went on to have a little filly (that's a girl horse). This filly grew up to take two-year-old, national honors at the biggest horse show at the Cow Palace in San Francisco.
This all happened over two years ago. What brought it to mind was that we just got a postcard from Becky, she says that everyone made it just fine. Skyrocket and George loved the trip and they love Montana. They sent blessings to all of us and even remembered my name. For my part, I certainly will never forget them.