Remember that the latest story is at the top. Scroll down the page to find the first entry from April 5-- The cows came home
SOUL OF LEADERSHIP in Arizona
I left Winning Ways feeling released from duty, the livestock were fed for a week and there were enough helpers to take care of all the chores. My travel westward was unimpeded and as the sun was setting, I arrived at the Inn. There, I was to meet my traveling companion, Janet, and have a “short night” in the Inn. The Inn’s shuttle took us to the Airport EARLY in the morning, and after the usual security procedures WestJet allowed us to embark, ready for our trip to Arizona.
Janet had booked a rental car through Budget and we picked it up at the Tucson Airport. We had directions to our Airbnb, and I was the navigator. I later learned that I had chosen the parallel highway going to Green Valley instead of the Interstate, so we had to make one course correction. We travelled through some very nice pecan groves and noted how it was green and the cacti were blooming. Many different kinds of cacti, with a variety of blossoms, made the landscape very picturesque. Enroute, we found a Safeway and bought a few things to create a supper for ourselves.
Our Casa Vista “home away from home” was delightful. There were Southwest motifs everywhere and the Arizona Room with the back patio made us want to spend time outdoors. In one of the bathrooms, the traditional colourful Mexican ceramic sink was a work of art! We enjoyed our supper and then our beds. We wanted to be rested up for our sessions the next day.
It was good that we got on the road early on our first morning going to Eponaquest Ranch as we had to stop to get the exact distances, on which roads and how to find the correct gate with the Epona logo.
We were greeted by our host, Linda, and her apprentices, before everyone met in the living room, where we learned about the expectations of the workshop.
After a mid-morning break, we reconvened outside by the round pen, where our first equine exercise was held. One of the apprentices showed us how to do a body scan which is intended to help us to connect and interact more effectively with our horses.
Artemis & Panther were the first two Epona horses we met that morning. Our group of 8 participants were divided into two equal groups, with the apprentices and their instructors supervising the sessions as the apprentices learned their craft. I had an opportunity to meet Artemis in the round pen and experience the rings of influence/coherence/energy around her by paying attention to her ‘proximity response’. This response is involuntary and is expressed by a subtle or obvious motion indicating when I reach a sphere or ‘ring’ of her energy field. With each proximity response, I would pause and lean back, waiting for her to acknowledge or approach me. The concentric rings are easily pictured when one thinks of the Rings of Saturn. Another participant also had the pleasure of working with Artemis. Then Artemis’ mother, Panther, was the equine teacher for the third participant and for Janet.
That afternoon, the task in the round pen was more detailed and involved connecting with the horse, moving the horse both ways at walk and trot and then spending time celebrating this accomplishment. Our group of participants got to meet the Spice Girls, a group of 3 very different mares who came from a Rescue facility. Brandi appears to be Haflinger or possibly part Belgian and is not excitable but perhaps a bit cautious. She helped two of our group’s participants with learning how to free lounge a horse. Savannah, a very pretty, little buckskin, who definitely lived up to her reputation as a Spice Girl, was Janet’s indomitable, yet inquisitive, teacher.
Then the large, blue eyed Paint, Leyla, became my mentor, the two of us had fun. Leyla would like to have continued our exercise, but I choose to celebrate by giving her a very good “tummy rub” which definitely had Leyla looking for more. At the end of each participant’s time in the round pen the horse is given applause and a carrot. At the end of my work with Leyla, when she was unsure if she wanted to stop or continue, I realised I could have thought of the carrot to get her attention and I’m sure Leyla would have stopped in her tracks.
At some point during the afternoon the “impossible” happened. Janet closed the trunk of the “smart car” with the key in it. It is programmed into the car’s sensors, that when the key is in there, the trunk will not lock. Something went wrong! With all the good intentions in the world, everyone tried to find a solution, to no avail. Janet is much neater than I and had placed all her stuff including her purse in the car trunk, so the key to the Airbnb was locked away. We spent the night at the local Inn thanks to Linda’s intervention. In the morning we received a good breakfast from the Inn keepers before we started our second day.
The apprentices had created a power point with Linda, outlining the Five Roles of a Master Herder, which is also the name of Linda’s latest book. There were some phenomenal pictures of Africa’s Fulani tribesmen who, as herdsmen for large herds of big, long horned cattle, are able to move these animals safely through desert, villages, roads and public spaces. The herdsmen’s ability to live with and control these cattle, without fences or other restraints is a testament to them being Master Herders. A Master Herder is a herder who can move easily in and out of herder roles of being Dominant, Leader, Nurturer/Companion, Sentinel, Predator. A presentation by the apprentices defined and showed how these roles emerge in different herds or communities. That was the start of the second day.
We got to meet more of the Epona herd the second morning when we experienced the roles of Sentinel and Nurturer/Companion. Each participant rotated through different positions within the paddock as they learned about the different aspects of these roles. I had the opportunity to “hang out” with Cloud as well as give her a bit of a scratching/grooming. Again, I gained a friend when I indulged her with some good belly rubs.
The afternoon session started with a discussion of the roles of Dominant and Leader. Our round pen work that afternoon consisted of ‘leading’ the horse by creating a connection that encouraged the horse to follow the participant without the aid of halter or rope. Both Dominant and Leader roles could be employed in executing this ‘leading’ exercise. I had already created a connection with Leyla the day before and she was as accommodating with the new exercise as she was with the one the day before. Once more, she was rewarded with a good scratch, applause and a carrot. I received some applause, too, for my apparently, effortless-looking connection with Leyla. But no carrot! Being there was my carrot.
During the second day the Budget car rental agency sent another car to replace the locked one. The truck operator, who brought the replacement car, attempted to tear the first car apart in a futile, but energetic attempt to retrieve the key. Being Friday afternoon and regular business hours diminishing, the ambitious tow truck driver was encouraged to load the locked car onto his flatbed and transport it to the Budget depot. Later, Janet received word that her belongings had been recovered, but they were at the Tucson airport terminal where we had picked up the car. We drove back to the terminal and I waited, somewhat anxiously, in the car, while Janet went into the office. She found the person who had extracted the purse and bag from the trunk and came back smiling with her cowboy hat on her head. Whoopee! We could get into the Airbnb and we had wheels. I find it mindboggling that Budget only has ONE key for each vehicle!
Saturday we could be tourists and Janet suggested a visit to Tombstone. I was excited to go see something different, and in this case, famous. As we rolled along the highway toward Tombstone, I saw a sign that read “Gunfights Daily”. I asked Janet, since it was just before 12, if it might be possible that we would get to see a Gunfight at High Noon. She thought it was a great idea. We saw the OK Corral as we drove into town. After parking, just past the stagecoach line, we hurried back to find out if my possibility could become a reality. It could indeed! We got to wander through the OK Corral site and then sat in the bleachers to watch the High Noon Gunfight. The actors were entertaining and instead of the vignette being somber they poked fun at the original reason for the fight. The spokesman was Doc Holliday and while he claimed to be one of the good guys, I honestly think they were all rotters.
We wandered down the street and stopped at the Longhorn Restaurant for lunch, where I greatly enjoyed the sweet potato fries and skewers of shrimp. MMMM tasty!! We did some shopping and we went back to the OK Corral to watch a diorama presentation on the Town Too Tough to Die. Our final stop was the office of the Tombstone Epitaph where we picked up a copy of the paper that outlined the events of October 26, 1881. That fateful day when 30 shots were fired in 30 seconds and 3 men lay dead, 3 others injured, one ran away and the last man standing, uninjured, was Wyatt Earp. The entire town is a movie set, with cowboys and ladies of the evening, teamsters driving stagecoaches and the occasional top hatted gentleman with a lady friend. It was great fun!
A few more cacti! Janet loves the saguaro cactus pictured here. They are large tree-like plants with branches like arms. The flower of the saguaro cactus is the state wildflower of Arizona
If this is as green as Arizona becomes, I never want to visit at any other time. The flowers were very vibrant, and the green was refreshing. I don’t want to spoil my impression of Arizona as refreshing!
When we arrived back at the Airbnb, we wrote up our thank you cards for those who had been our mentors during the workshop and those who lent us a helping hand with the locked car. Then we headed back to Elephant Head Road and just past the railway tracks we found a very lovely country residence that catered the graduation party for the Epona apprentices, now instructors. We had an opportunity to spend some more time with our new friends and congratulate those who graduated. The skies lit up with lightning and the thunder rolled, the locals seemed a bit uneasy with the threat of rain, so we headed back to Green Valley after a very enjoyable evening.
Rain it did! By the time we reached the Airbnb it was pouring down, not unwelcome in the Arizona desert. We packed our belongings, had another very short night in our beds and headed off in the rain to the airport for my 6:30 A.M. flight back. I spent Mother’s Day in airports in three cities, eventually arriving in Edmonton, where the shuttle brought me back to my vehicle. The McLeans were my hosts that evening and entertained me with piano/guitar playing and singing. Very nice family atmosphere for a homecoming.
During my return to Winning Ways, I stopped to see my 97-year-old aunt who was out working in her garden when I arrived. Auntie is one of my heroes, not too much slows her down! I had a wonderful visit with her, and my cousin prepared a very tasty lunch. I drove back into the ranch yard and everything was in good order. My crew had only one problem cow and the critters all seemed to be healthy and happy. I felt that I could resume my leadership role on the ranch with even more ‘soul’ after my Arizona adventure and leadership quest at Eponaquest!
April showers ........
showers??? NO! Snow!!! several inches deep
Saturday we had showers and then it started to snow a bit at supper time. My helper, Leonie, and I went to the Two Bar C to pick George up to accompany us to the Bruce Rawling concert in Meadow Lake. On our way out of the yard, I noticed a pussy willow bush bursting with the soft grey flowers and I wanted to take a photo, but we wanted to be on time so I didn’t stop. As we drove north on the grid road, it started to really snow hard and by the time we reached the Two Bar C it was white. In fact, the airport road had some interesting tracks where the vehicle ahead of us made some squiggles in the snow. I drove cautiously and we arrived early enough we got to speak with Bruce before the show.
Bruce put on an impressive concert with mostly his own compositions and played 5 different instruments. I’d call them all guitars but I’m sure they have more technical names that Mr. Gibson could teach me. Since Bruce grew up in this community, there were many at the concert who had been his contemporaries or friends of his family members or taught by his Dad. I think he enjoyed meeting so many who were glad to recall fond memories. I felt very moved when he sang a song, he had written for his Mom, who passed away last fall. I remember her clearly and was sorry to hear that she is no longer with us.
When we walked out the door after the concert, we were extremely surprised by the amount of snow covering everything. We looked at each other in disbelief and asked, “Is it Christmas time?” My friend, Janet, who had joined us at the concert, was still ‘winter ready’ and hurried to bring her snow brush to uncover the Nissan from its burden of the heavy, wet, white stuff. The drive home included one squiggle on the part of the Nissan, avoiding some deer, who must have thought the storm had gone on long enough and were out foraging and promising George when we dropped him off, that I would call as soon as I got home to let him know we were safe. It was indeed a winter wonderland again.
Poor Louvic had to get up out of his bed of snow Sunday morning when I went out to greet him. Why he slept there, I’m not sure, but he moved very slowly and stiffly when he first arose. I was headed out to get my pussy willow photo. That venture was not successful since all I saw was the icicle encase pussy willows, that no longer appeared very spring like. Maybe tomorrow spring will return?
The cows came home April 5, 2019
The crew helped to sort our Winning Ways cows from their pasture-mates at the Bar P this morning. Then we put them on the road and brought them home.
There were 6 riders, 3 truck drivers and of course Louvic to ensure that no cow got left behind. We brought the herd along the gravel road with only one silly young cow getting on the wrong side of a water/ice filled ditch. She eventually decided that she would have to retrace her steps back to the beginning of the water and then lope down the road to catch up with the herd.
George Millar, our pilot truck operator, told me that today was the best Cattle Drive we’ve had so far. I would like to thank all the courteous drivers who slowed down and went past us slowly and politely. The cows proceeded down the highway in an orderly fashion and although there were only a few riders they mostly stayed in the right-hand lane. The bridge was a scary experience for Howard’s horse, so Dale and I went beside her to reassure her that the sound of running water was not alarming. The paparazzi appeared along the way and took photos so we could display our adventures for the world. (Amanda was on her way to work when she stopped to capture some moments of the drive.)
Thanks also to Amanda, the crew enjoyed a great snack when we halted for a break along the highway. Howard spotted a fence along an old pasture underpass and thought we could hold the cows in the ditch beside it, while we had our treat. The older cows certainly knew they were headed home and were not easily stopped for our break.
Once we turned off the highway onto the trail to Nesset Lake, the truck drivers were no longer needed to escort the herd. George had some chores to do and Rahel and Jordan headed to the Home Ranch to make sure that “lupper” was ready when the riders arrived. The cows know the trail and happily followed Howard and Maria. In fact, they got so close to Brandy’s tail, she gave a cow a well placed kick, much to Maria’s surprise. It was not a matter of chasing the cows in the trees, but rather persuading them that they did not need to become so engaged in scratching and rubbing down trees that they forgot where they were going. Marilyn, Lilly, Louvic and I did the persuading at the back. Leonie on Tex found herself in the middle of the herd, sort of flowing with the motion of the cows around the Lake and up the hills on the west side. The lead cows were happily munching on the bales we had put out for them, by the time the last stragglers and those of us persuading them, arrived at the gate into the E7 paddock.
As we headed back to the yard, we encountered an entire herd of escaped yearlings! Fortunately, they are very curious and habituated to the sound of humans and so came running to us, when they heard us. We sent them back toward the yard and put them in with the cows in the East Pen. I went to see where they had escaped and standing in front of the wide-open gate was the old lame cow who has been the yearlings’ mentor all winter. She appeared bewildered that she was the only critter IN the pen. I closed the open gate and tied it, not just chained it! We sorted the cows from the yearlings and then headed in to feed our horses and ourselves.