Thoughts, ideas, photos, and stories.


The Beastie

The little yellow-green plums are ripe, and many have fallen to the ground.

I sit in my lawn chair, keeping the dogs company, but they want more. They want me to throw a glove to retrieve; anything to get my attention.

I’m too hot and tired to comply, so Emma goes over to eat a plum.

She looks over at me. “So aren’t you going to stop me?”

I’m too tired or lazy to care.

She runs to get another plum and takes it across the yard to be sure I notice her.

“Aren’t you going to stop me? I’m eating your plums….”

I just don’t care.

Emma repeats this attention-getting plum eating thing, and I lazily count how many times she runs back and forth from the tree to the “grassy eating place.”

At FOURTEEN plums, I think I’d better haul myself out of the lawn chair before she has an accident. I imagine her little belly full of pits. I’ve checked on this before, and they do pass right through. But FOURTEEN of them? And she’s a small dog.

I walk around the yard telling deaf old Ruby the springer spaniel to please hurry up and pee so we can go in. Emma has no interest in doing anything. She’s taken off into the shrubbery around the backyard.

It’s starting to get dusky. Time to go in.  Ruby is already at the door, but where is Emma?

I call her.

No Emma.

I call again.

No Emma.

I wonder if she has slipped out through the gate somehow, but she’s really too big for that.

I imagine her lying in the bushes writhing with gut pain from eating too many plums.

Finally she appears, but she’s not running to me. I have to call her over. She has her head down and comes reluctantly.

Then I see a feather in her mouth – or wait – no, it’s a tail. OMG! Does she have a rat in her mouth? No. Too small. A mouse then? Or is it a baby rat? I have mixed feelings. If it’s a rat, kill it (and I don’t want to touch it – actually I don’t want her to eat it either). If it’s a mouse, please let the poor thing go.

But she has her jaws clamped shut. Just the tail of the poor little creature is hanging down the side of her jaws like half of a Fu Manchu moustache.

I want her to give it up, but do I want this (possibly) rat in my hand?

Gingerly, I take hold of the tail and say the magic words that make her give up whatever is in her mouth. (It’s not, “Drop it,” or “Dead bird,” or “GIVE-IT-TO-ME-RIGHT-NOW!”) I have to be polite, and say, the way I’ve taught her, “Thank you!”

She opens her mouth and I pull out a

“Wee, sleekit, cowrin, tim’rous beastie,
O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!” (Thank you, Robbie Burns.)

The poor thing is a bit wet and scruffy, but still able to run, if only it knew which way to go. I hold back the Hound of the Baskervilles and give the poor wee beastie time to escape.



Then we come inside where Emma tells me she’s eaten too many plums and didn’t have room for a mouse anyway, and that, by the way, she’ll be getting me out of bed at 12:30 in the morning to go out the dark and deal with the plums once they’ve done their work.


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The Porky Dance

The prairies of eastern Montana have a beauty that is all their own. We like to visit each year for some pheasant hunting. For me, it’s enough to bring my camera and document the many beautiful landscapes and the multitude of birds and other animals that live here.

It’s a rough countryside for a dog to run across. That grass is tough, the weeds have prickly burrs, and the cattails in the gullies can cut tender toes. The stubble left after farmers harvest their grain pokes the dogs’ feet. Have you ever tried walking barefoot on stubble? Ouch!


Our spaniels are dressed and ready to go exploring. Ruby, on the left, is an English springer spaniel. Almost nine years old, she’s getting gray eyebrows and whiskers and is slowing down considerably. I can identify with that very well (except for the whiskers part). Emma, on the right, is an English cocker spaniel. At a year and a half she’s pretty much full grown but is a much smaller dog than Ruby. But she’s all muscle, like a little tractor on a Pogo stick. Here they are with their blaze orange skidplates on. These tough little vests will save them from punctures and scrapes as they encounter barbed wire, sticks, thorns, and forgotten pieces of old farm machinery half buried in the ground. When I see the scratches on the vests I am thankful for the injuries the dogs have escaped.

As we hiked over the fields, Ruby panted along doing her best to keep up with Emma, who was always up ahead, checking out every roosting place of pheasants, sharptail grouse, or Hungarian partridge. I wondered at what she had found when I saw her jump high and pounce several times. Often,  spaniels will do this in high grass to flush out a hidden bird. I wasn’t alarmed when Emma pounced around and around in a ten foot diameter circle. The captain blew his whistle and called her away. Fortunately, Emma listened (this time), and did not end up with a nose full of quills. She had been dancing around a porcupine.

He was so well hidden in the high grass, that even in the photo, I still can’t tell which end of him is the head or the tail. He is all quills!


On our drive back, we marveled at Montana’s beauty. It had been an invigorating day full of bird sightings and the lovely aromas of sage and prairie grasses. It was time to ride off into the sunset. We found what we needed. Some American paint horses, just like in days of old.


And a gorgeous sunset to put a lasting glow on our happy souls.