Thursday, April 19, 2018

Hillbilly Golf

The Disney movie Brave changed my life.  No, not in the way No Country For Old Men did, but, I could argue, for a movie I only half-watched, Brave had a much bigger impact.  No Country just made me paranoid of cattle-killing bolt guns and get a really sweet bob haircut, while Brave, dammit, made me a bowhunter.

The Cliff's Notes version is this: Dylan watched Brave, then wanted a bow.  Then she wanted a nicer bow.  I stood around while she shot targets, handing her arrows and mumbling, "Nice shot," until my cousin Brett gave me his really nice bow.  We practiced, we watched bow shooting videos on YouTube, Dylan won a contest, I arrowed a buck.  We were hooked.  Then Grady wanted a bow.  And around we go, the circle stays unbroken.

So now we do things like worry about our laundry detergent's scent (for sneaky hunting) and spend Sunday afternoons at 3-D shoots.  You're probably thinking, 3-D shoots, that sounds awesome!  Are there lasers involved?  Cosplay?  Furries?  No.  It's even more awesome.  Think hillbilly mini-golf with weapons.  You hike around, usually up and down hills, and take shots at 3-D targets.  Some shots are difficult (Ashland has a bison out at 100 yards, Siskiyou has an iron hog with a very small soft center to hit.  There's a pile of busted arrows beneath it).  Some are easy.  Some are surrounded by poison oak, or blackberry brambles, or creeks.  Some targets are beneath cliffs and some are in caves.   Still not convinced that it's fun?  I wasn't either, until the first time I went.  The kids and I had a blast.  We flung arrows until my eyes got fuzzy and came home and started practicing for the next shoot.

Which is also something archery is great for -- discipline.  There's a concentrated focus in shooting a bow properly that very few activities offer.  Kids have to be calm, still, focused, and patient.  In archery, there's a hundred things that can go wrong before one thing goes right, and shooters have to sort all those things out in their heads before they shoot.  Plus, the sound of an arrow hitting a target is deeply satisfying.  It's something our cool-ass caveman forefathers and mothers did for survival, and that thwack of an arrow finding its mark is embedded in our DNA.

So now, we mark our calendars every year for the local shoots.  I keep googling more places to hillbilly-golf bow shoot to expand our territory.  Dylan's getting better, I'm holding steady, and now Grady is ready for his next bow.  He'll have to watch Brave first.  Maybe we'll all sit down as a family and watch No Country For Old Men, and see how freaked out the kids get, friend-o.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018


Dylan, suddenly, hates having her photo taken.
It seems odd to me that only around 2% of the American population are farmers or ranchers.  Probably because 50% of the people I know are in those professions.  But I do realize that there's quite a bit that I do, because of my vocation, that most folks don't do.  For instance, I regularly stick my arm up cows' asses.  Seems weird, right?  It is, but it's one of the best and easiest ways to check if a cow is pregnant.  Getting them to pee on that little stick is nearly impossible, so, the long gloves it is.  I also get to take my kids to work with me whenever they're not in school.  I take it for granted, but I realize that most professions frown on bringing kids into the office whenever the mood strikes.  If I can cram them in the cab of a tractor, stick them on a horse, or pile them on a 4-wheeler, then they can tag along.  Besides, the extra set of hands is, well, handy.

They were home, and a little cooped up over spring break, so I had them as my cow feeding helpers.  I can count on Dylan to drive for me while I climb up on the back of a pickup that's loaded down with hay.  She likes to stay up front and play with the dogs while I holler left and right instructions, but generally, I don't have to pay too much attention to her driving.  She knows where to go and what to avoid.  I already know how much smarter she is than me because at her age, when I drove to feed for dad, he had to write a big "L" and "R" on my left and right hands to keep me from crashing into fences, trees, or bull wallows.  Dylan just puts smiley faces on her own hands.  

Grady, on the other hand (no pun intended), hates being left alone in the truck and I often have to push or pull him up to the top of four or five layers of hay -- while the truck's moving -- and then shimmy myself up super-gracefully to the top to feed.  He kicks off flakes of hay for me and sits, frozen and clinging to a twine on a bale.  Apparently, he hates heights only a tiny bit less than driving.

We got tired of trying to navigate our way to the horse pen in the dark after Drill Team practices, so on Saturday I put in a gate with closer (and semi-lighted) access.  Dylan and Grady were my brace building helpers which, mostly, worked well.  Dylan's good at measurements, so she ran the tape measure and Grady's good with tools, so he ran the chainsaw (no, he didn't).  They gathered rocks for the post holes and Dylan took a crack at hammering in fencing staples.  There's a little room for improvement in her hammer swinging skills, but it'll come.  And we completed a little project that looks pretty good with a new (to us) gate (Repurposed?  Up-cycled?  Some piece of shit that I used because I'm too cheap to buy a new one?  Take your pick).

They're back in school and I'm back to feeding solo, with a big ol' L and R written on my leather gloves.  You know, just in case.  And when the weekend comes, they'll be tagging along with their dear old dad, hanging out with a 2%-er.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Eastside Easter

To this day, if you ask me what's my favorite holiday, I'll tell you, hands down, it's St. Paddy's.  But let's be honest, I haven't celebrated National Irish Drinking Day properly in ten years.  This year, St. Patrick's Day fell on a Saturday, AND our friend and barkeep at Denny Bar whipped up some amazing festive cocktails and invited us in for a try.  Guess what Regina and I did?  We got all gussied up, but I didn't even have my boots on before someone turned on Stranger Things, and next thing we knew, it was nearly 10:00 PM (! -- way past our bedtime), and we were sound asleep.

But there's been another holiday that's snuck up on me and I'm really starting to warm up to it.  Yep, Easter.  It really has it all: church, tradition, food, beer, and candy.  We hosted Easter at our house this year and had a sizable and rambunctious crew.  We served both traditional (ham) and non- (Moroccan goat) for dinner and had not one, but two coolers full of Sierra Nevada and Coors.  There were only four kiddos (and one baby) for the egg hunt and we recruited a fifth sort-of-kiddo (Ollie) for the traditional Easter piñata.  Grady sold his non-candy egg treats to his sister for $1 a pop, and now has a wallet stuffed with singles.  It was, according to us, a success.

It's easy for me to cling to a tradition I once loved -- but did I ever really love green beer and leprechauns?  Yes, probably.  But the older, wiser me is starting to come around to this Easter thing.  And I think it just might be big enough to catch on.  We'll see.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Blondes, Oreos, and Fuzzy Orange Cats

Regina has a type.  I'd like to say it's ridiculously charming and handsome blonde dudes, but that would only be 33% right.  But she'll collect fuzzy orange cats by the bucketload and has tried to talk me into getting Belted Galloways (aka "Oreo" cattle) since she first laid eyes on one.

While we still have 4 orange cats, we've been belt-less.  Until now.  Meet Sami.  She's a 3-week old registered Belted Galloway heifer.  I've seen, literally, thousands of baby calves in my lifetime, and generally, they're all pretty cute.  But Sami takes the cake.  She's reeeeeallly stinkin' cute.

Sami came from Port Orford, Oregon -- which is just a quick 5 hour jaunt from here.  And what better way to spend a Sunday than to load the kids, the puppy, and Boy into the truck at 6:00 a.m. and head to the coast.  It was like a little vacation, minus all the cocktails and relaxation.

Sami now lives in Dolores's (Dylan's fair heifer) guest room.  Dolores probably isn't too happy her shelter got stolen, but Sami sure likes it.  She chugs 3 bottles a day, which is keeping us hopping, and she's already been a headliner at the college's career day for jr. high kids.  Dylan and I were the "ag" station, and we had no career guidance or speech to give.  We just had a baby calf and a puppy and let the little spazzy kids pet them until their teachers told them to quit.

So, we're in the heritage breed cattle business.  I'm sure, in the near future, another orange kitten will join our herd, and, as long as Regina doesn't suddenly announce, "You know what I really like?  Brunette guys," then I'll hang around too.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Penny's Creeper

Picture this:  You and your family are spending a nice little Saturday out at the strip mall.  Sun's out.  Cows are mooing.  You walk into JC Pennys 'cause, you know, fly threads, and there in the women's unmentionables stands a lone man.  He's not shopping, he's not picking out something for his wife, he's just ... there.  Honey, you ask, should we call the manager?  Please don't.  It's only me.

No, this isn't some sort of weird confession, and yes, that was my Saturday afternoon with Dylan and her friend.  They had to have matching outfits for the upcoming talent show and Regina was working, so I got volunteered.

Things started out strong.  The first thing I saw when we walked in was that flannel shirts were 70% off.  I thought I could hide there, in the men's section, until the girls were done, but then they asked me to hold their extra clothes while they tried stuff on.  Pennys, weirdly, puts their dressing rooms in the middle of the women's bras and underwear.  That's where I was camped out, spending what felt like waaaaay too much time trying to act un-pervy and not stare at the chonies.  Mothers held their children a little tighter as they passed.  Fathers looked disapprovingly.  I felt shame.  One lady, who'd seen me exchange shirts for the girls said, "You're a good dad."  I said, "Thanks," but I really wish I'd said, "I don't know them," because I double-down on awkwardness when things get really weird.
These are not pictures from that day.
Snapping photos in the chonie section would've
really raised a few eyebrows.

Really though, probably no one batted an eye at the hillbilly lost in the bras.  And I'm sure I wasn't the first.  As a reward, we treated ourselves to shakes, candy, and the local tattoo parlor.  The latter also doubles as an art gallery, so we perused while the artist was getting a tattoo.  We learned a lot.  And while we didn't celebrate the day with tats, I did get to enjoy the sugared-up giggles of two 5th graders on the ride home.

The lesson?  Pennys has smokin' hot deals on flannel shirts right now.  And that was about it.  But, if I ever have to stand in front of their dressing rooms again, I'm definitely wearing a trench coat and sunglasses, just to do a litmus test on how much awkwardness one store can handle.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Let's Talk About Chicks, Man

When Regina and I moved into this house, in the spring of 1999, there was an enormous, creepy chicken coop out back.  It looked like something out of Blair Witch.  We should have torched it immediately, instead, we got chickens.  I did my best to patch up the coop, but the skunks and raccoons found all the flaws in its design and Regina frequently woke me up in the middle of the night with a, "There's something in the coop."  I'd grab the shotgun I kept beside the bed for such occasions and Regina would grab the spotlight and we'd run outside to watch the raccoons scatter like we'd just broke up a really cool party.  Occasionally I'd blast one of the chicken killers, and once, when the problem got out of hand, we had the county trapper come to catch an especially diabolical raccoon.  But we were no match for their love of farm fresh chicken, and when we got down to just 2 hens, I didn't have the heart to sacrifice them to the beasts, so I gave them to my cousin.  Then I promptly tore down the coop.  It took us about 10 years before I built another, slightly safer, one and we got back into chicken farming.

The new coop is pretty secure.  The skunks can't dig underneath to eat the eggs, and the raccoons can't pry up the roof to eat the hens, so our girls' only predators come when we let them out.  We had Rodney, the Polish hen (she looked like Rod Stewart circa 1988), who got carried away by a hawk or an owl.  She lived through the flight, but had holes in her head and was never really quite the same.  Elvis, our first St. Bernard, once stuck his head in a box of baby chicks and gobbled them up like they were little nuggets.  Several have just died mysteriously, as chickens are wont to do, and a few have been fed up to Nacho, my brother's old Golden Retriever.

Last weekend we returned home from a movie date day and noticed we were missing Jerry, a big Brahma hen.  We scanned the perimeter and looked for the hiding hen or a pile of feathers and when nothing came up, we called Nacho's owner, Grant.  He said he hadn't seen anything suspicious, but the pile of feathers he'd seen in his closet earlier should have set off some sort of internal alarm.  Ollie, his daughter, went in the closet later that day and found Jerry hiding behind the shoes.  Nacho had carried her, alive, a quarter-mile up the road to his house and hid her in a closet.  She had a pretty good chunk out of her back so we doctored her up and put her in a box by the wood stove.  By day 2 she was no better and when Regina took her outside for fresh air she croaked.  Dylan took it pretty hard and made me promise I'd bury Jerry, which I reluctantly agreed to do.  I've never buried a chicken before and I wondered to myself if tossing Jerry in the river would count as a burial at sea.

We're down to 4 chickens now and one is so small she lays quail sized eggs.  Cute, but not so filling.  Our girls are on the 1 egg a week laying plan, but only if the weather is nice.  Don't get me wrong, the eggs, when they come, are delicious, but the effort and cost are hardly worth it.  But we're in this for the long haul.  I'll go dig a nice grave for Jerry, and we'll all keep a wary eye out for Nacho.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Wine and Wipes

Our hands were too disgusting to take photos,
so here's a photo of our kids inside something
that sort of looks like a crab.
You've all seen fancy fundraising galas (at least in the movies) where dinners are served by white-gloved waitstaff and folks spend exorbitant amounts on silly auction items like sea lion rides or original paintings of sad clowns by Brittney Spears.  Scott Valley has those types of dinners, only different.  From September to May (non-haying season) you could likely attend some sort of annual fundraising banquet every week.  Every event tries to have its own unique twist, but they always include at least two of the following three items: a dessert auction, a gun raffle, and a silent auction.  The fancy ones have all three.

Last weekend we lucked out and Regina got us tickets to the Ft. Jones Masons' annual crab feed.  Sound fancy?  It's not.  You get a paper plate loaded with crab and a plastic bib.  Sound awesome?  It is.  It's only the second time we've been able to score tickets because they're so coveted.  The first time was BC (before-children) and we screwed up by showing up somewhere between the two very strict start times.  They were kind and fed us anyway, but we'd broken some sort of crab-feed taboo and I was sure we'd be black-listed forever.  Twelve years later, we made it back on the cool bus and we weren't about to screw things up.

The Masons, for reasons that are unclear to me, serve an all you can eat crab feast that also includes "classic" crab side dishes: spaghetti, hard boiled eggs, garlic bread, and salad.  Everyone around us kept raving about the spaghetti and told me I had to try it.  It tasted like spaghetti.  At a crab feed.  Why in the hell would I fill my gut on spaghetti when I have crab legs to crack?  I asked that and was met with funny looks.  The egg, by the way, was delicious, but then again, I'm still new to this.

We arrived mostly prepared: we brought baby wipes and wine.  The wine, of course, we drank, but the wipes were a hit.  I think everyone in the hall came by at some point and sheepishly asked for one.  I felt like we gained a little street cred.  I thought our fundraiser dinner game was pretty top shelf, especially with the baby wipes and all, until I looked around.  People brought more than one wine variety (I guess one for the crab, one for the spaghetti), melted butter dipping pots, homemade cocktail sauces, and even linens.  It gives us something to which to aspire.  Next year, Dylan will macramé us our own crab bibs and Regina will fire up an appetizer hibachi in the corner.  Grady and I will up our crab cracking game and we'll be the envy of the hall.