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Friday, March 30, 2012

High Tailing It

Friday has become "I get to write and the other stuff can wait" day. Life is busy and I take my responsibilities seriously, maybe even too seriously for my own good, but on Friday mornings, it is MY turn.

The weather for beautiful downtown Fallon has been on the gloomy side for a few days but today we are going to have mostly sun covered skies with 74 (and more) Fahrenheits, no cents chance of raindrops falling on your head. The wind from the SW will kick up to 20mph today, but tie the cat to the tree for tomorrow.

Throw your chicken feed low kiddies, or you'll be feeding the neighbor's hens!

Today, in fact, in less than 30 minutes, we will be going to pick up Mr S. to take him to lunch and then shopping at Walmart. I know that it is evil to shop at the "all Chinese goods import store", but until the Dollar Store starts carrying groceries, it is the only place that senior citizens on fixed incomes can afford to shop.

Taking him shopping in Walmart is truly an exercise in patience. He can't walk very far without either getting worn out, or having his knee swell so we take the manual wheelchair. This gives him a comfortable seat from which to then view everything, in every aisle, in the whole store. Because he ALWAYS needs "something else" and can't remember what it is, but he will know it when he sees it. I know the game, he is bored doing the same things in his assisted living place and the weekly outing is fun for him. You do what you have to do.

The story for today takes us back to 1970 and is fairly short. Enjoy!

High Tailing It

During the period of November 1969 to February 1970 we built a house out on the edge of Florida Conservation Area Three, in a newly divided up section called Rolling Oaks. The house was on two acres and next to us, my uncle had four more in pasture. Behind the property was a major canal that held water year round. To either side and in front of us were open expanses of uninhabited acreage. 

This was, for something over sixty years, known as the "Bailey Ranch", named for the family that owned it.

During their time on the ranch they raised range cattle and gradually made the transition to better beef cattle like Herefords and Angus, but it wasn't easy running a cattle ranch in swamp and grassland. There were rattlesnakes and water moccasins and alligators to injure the cattle, bugs like you couldn't imagine, and grass fires! Everglades fires are the worst that I have ever seen because they run under ground through the peat and will pop up behind you or under you. They can run underneath roads and streams, meanwhile blazing away in your face. You don't have much of a chance to move your stock with a grass fire raging through.

Because of all this, when the Grandfather died, the family said,"Split it and sell it, now!" They did not want any more of this lifestyle, even though it paid their way through school and helped to buy their homes and toys. It was simply too much work!

So enter my family, along with several others who purchased acreage and built homes and enjoyed the quiet, peaceful country living, with no traffic or city pollution and a long way to your nearest neighbor.

We all dug firebreaks and kept the brush down, and there were canals cut along every road in the area. We all knew that if we had a fire, our house would burn to the ground before anyone could get to us to help. So we were extremely fire conscious and our homes were built out of concrete blocks on concrete slab foundations, with asbestos composite shingles, and an outside water faucet on all sides of the house with a hose at the ready. We weren't paranoid, just prepared.

It was about a half mile to our nearest neighbor and a full mile to the bus stop. It was seventeen miles to my high school; you weren't going to miss that bus or it got ugly! I had a friend named David who lived about two miles away. We would go riding on horses, or bicycles, or sometimes just walk; we did that back then, walk places that is.

I also spent a lot of time in the swamp with my German Shepherd buddy, "Thor the Wonder Dog." We would chase and catch, just about anything that moved; snakes, rabbits, critters of all kinds.

On one occasion, Thor saved my butt from a great big range bull, which I didn't know had been released into that "pasture", and I use that term very loosely. It was swampy grassland that had some barbed wire around it and no improvements done to it.

The dog and I were cutting through the area, heading for a pond that I knew of, where lots of different animals could be found and watched. I didn't see this brute when we stopped and looked the pasture over; we had been raised around livestock and never took it for granted that something would, or would not be in there. I looked every time, without fail. This wily old rascal had been in "ambush mode" from the beginning, hiding behind some bushes, waiting for us to get far enough away from the fence that we couldn't make it back before he caught up to us. Range bulls are like that; smart and dangerous, always on the attack to protect their cows or pasture, or anything else that they believe is their own. Which is usually everything that they can see.

Thor was chasing a rabbit in a big circle and would drive it right back to me; just in case I wanted to catch it or kill it to eat, neither of which I had in mind. I was thinking about a herd of small deer that hung around that waterhole, and hoped to be able to observe them for a while and see if I could tell if they were Key Deer or just small whitetails. Key deer shouldn't be this far north, and if they were, it was an important thing for the Fish and Game guys to know because they are a protected species, and whitetail are not.

While all of this was going through my head, my legs were still moving, carrying me across the pasture. While I was very aware of my immediate surroundings, (I was raised in snake country after all), I was not checking behind me or at any distance from me. I knew that Thor was at my "two o'clock" position and moving across in front of me and would bring the rabbit to me from the "ten o'clock" side, just like he always did, that dog was awesome!

It's a damn good thing that he was awesome too, because he spotted the bull bearing down on me from behind me. I didn't hear the footsteps at all in that soft ground and the bull wasn't snorting or bellowing, just charging at me in a silent and deadly rage. When Thor broke off of his normal pattern it made me look directly at him, and he was coming towards me at the fastest, flat-out run that I had ever seen him do. It was then that I looked where he was looking, and saw the bull! I knew in a flash that I couldn't out run him in a straight line and I was fresh out of bullfighter capes and funny hats! He wasn't particular about how I was accessorized, he meant to stomp me into oblivion. I ran for the nearest clump of bushes, intending to try and keep something between us for as long as it took to figure out how I was going to get out of this mess.

Feeling pretty proud of the burst of speed that I had put on, I rounded the clump of bushes just in time to duck as the stinking bull jumped over them, and me, as I hit the ground. Whew, this sucker is good! He had me figured out all the way and cut me off. What he didn't figure on though, was the "Mighty Thor", protector of puny humans, especially his best buddy, who was considering a trip to China, via direct excavation.

As the nasty critter turned around to come back and stomp me, he didn't see Thor, and got caught by surprise as Thor jumped and grabbed that bull right at the base of his tail and bit down and held on. That bull was spinning so hard that Thor was sticking straight out behind him like a 120 pound German Shepherd tail. I just stood there watching with my mouth hanging open. I know it was open because a bug got in it, and it nearly choked me before I got it spat out. Got to love the 'glades!

Now; I had seen lots of dogs and cats, and even a couple of kids, drag their butts on the ground, for one reason or another. But I had never seen anything like that one thousand plus pounds of ugly gray bull, dragging his hind end across that pasture trying to get whatever it was that was biting his tail loose from him, however he could. I was laughing so hard by this point, that I couldn't have run away from him if he walked after me. But there wasn't any chance of that.

Once Thor decided that he was tired of this and felt like I was safe, he let go and the bull ran in the opposite direction as fast as he could move. I yelled for the dog to come back and as he did Thor gave him a parting bark and the bull lifted his tail in the air while he kept running. It was too funny!

After that if I saw the bull in the pasture, all I had to do was yell, "THOR!" and that bull would "high-tail it" away from me as fast as he could run.

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