Horse Opera, Pt. Two

In Horse Opera, I told how a silver dun (also called grulla) mare helped protect and nurture a colt born this spring to another mare in my neighbor’s small herd.   As I witnessed the social dynamics of the herd shift with the colt’s arrival, the grulla emerged to my awareness as an intelligent, loyal, and brave soul, frequently placing herself between the foal and his aggressive yellow dun father, at times driving the stallion out of the herd to stop his bullying the mare-foal pair.   The grulla helped raise the baby, forming such a close bond with him that my youngest daughter took to calling her €œNanny Horse. € Continue reading “Horse Opera, Pt. Two”


Field Notes #5

From time to time, someone asks why I don’t write about the meaner, nastier  side of nature, especially the predator-prey drama.   Until I go on that man-eating African lion-hunting trip  or bag  me an Alaskan  grizzly or happen to be on hand when a puma takes down a mule deer buck, I just don’t have much to offer on predator vs. prey.   Sorry.

However, something did come to mind the other day, musings upon a kind of predator-prey relationship that I jotted down in my hiking journal as I  strolled through Crossfire.   It isn’t pretty, but I thought I’d pass it along.

Warning: This post shows Patricia in a mood.   If you’re in a mood today,  you might want to skip this one.      

May 21, 2009

Overcast, humid, cooler-that-has-been morning.   I set out for Coyote Way, the trail  leading down into Crossfire Canyon.   As usual, I pass my mouldering friend,  the dead coyote    lying  off to one side of  the trailhead.   I stop to look at him whenever I take  this path.    

After a month of decompostion he  looks considerably worse for wear, though that lovely triangular earform  still holds  up well.    Gone, the  shine and softness his coat had when he was first dumped.    Matted patches have loosened, as if  he were going through a heavy shed,  or  they have been peeled back  in the course of some  other  scavenger’s work.   A gaping entrance into his inner cavern has formed in his side.     His coat has taken on the patina of old carpet  across whose nap mud has  been tracked  and into whose fibers a wide variety of liquids has soaked.   The flies that earlier clouded his vicinity have gone through their cycle; no insects are visible, though something must be creeping  through the body.  Every time I stop here, I wonder how and why  this animal  died.   Anything could have happened, but the dominant reason folks kill these animals—if, in fact, he was killed—can usually be summed up in this word: competition.

 A week ago, winds  blowing up out of the canyon carried the scent of  the coyote’s chemical crush into the earth.   Today, cliffrose pollen lightly perfumes  breezes  swirling past. Continue reading “Field Notes #5”

Horse Opera

The neighbors that own the acreage surrounding our lot are horse enthusiasts.   Currently, they keep a small herd made up of a ginger palomino mare, a pale dun mare (don’t know what the coloration’s called but a black stripe runs down her spine), a white gelding, a palomino gelding, and a yellow dun stallion.  

Less than a week ago, the ginger-colored palomino gave birth to a pale palomino foal with a white blaze and one white sock.   Watching the equine tyke grow has been great fun.   The birth of the colt stirred up the herd.   Naturally, they were curious about who had come and wanted to pay their respects.   But the dam has been fiercely protective of him, biting and kicking to drive herd mates back.   At times, she’s separated herself and the colt from the herd,  running with him down into the forested plot behind us to send a message to the others.   When she’s done that, they’ve neighed, bugled, and nickered, calling her back, especially the stallion.   Despite the dam’s threats, the dun mare has insisted on following, keeping  a close if much discouraged  companionship with the dam and foal.     Eventually the mares rejoin the herd, the dam, uneasily.   She stands ready to flash out a hoof or two if anybody gets too close to the colt. Continue reading “Horse Opera”

The fetish

One of the reasons I moved from Utah County to San Juan County was to provide my oldest son and youngest daughter greater exposure to nature.   Household circumstances have resulted in their being confined to the house more than is natural for children in general but is even more unnatural for children of an outdoors-type like myself.   I wanted them to have a better  chance at the kind of  engagement in the natural world I  enjoyed growing up, a level of  deep  involvement that has provided for me all my life.  

 But it’s been difficult business breaking up their bonds with interior spaces and tempering their fascination with electronic frontiers.   Until recently, many of my attempts at getting them “out there” into the yard and surrounding countryside were met with grim doubtfulness. Continue reading “The fetish”