Tires, Horses, Lost Dogs, Used Trucks, and a Garage Project

Or, how I tired myself out on a Saturday.

Yesterday was one of those days when you’re just so darn busy doing things that time goes by in a blur, ending in exhaustion and a good night’s sleep.

I woke as usual before 6 AM. I made coffee for me and a scrambled egg for Alex the Bird. Then I settled down at the kitchen table with a laptop to write up my “Feels So Good” blog entry. Mike and Jack the dog came down and had breakfast. Later, I cleaned the remains of the previous day from Alex’s cage, set him up with food and water for the day, and locked him in.

A typical morning.

Taking Out the Tires

Mike had gotten new tires for his new used car. He bought the car a month or so ago and it came with fancy rims and low-profile tires. Those rims and tires really aren’t practical for life on the edge of nowhere, especially when the last mile of road to the house is unpaved. So he bought new rims and tires on eBay. They’d arrived the day before and he had a Saturday morning appointment to get them put on his car. Since he couldn’t take them in his car, I had to drive them over to Big O in his pickup. We did that at about 8:30 AM.

It was a beautiful morning. It had rained steadily most of the day before, so everything was wet. The sky was mostly clear and the sun shined down on all the water droplets hanging from the trees, making everything sparkle. But what was even more interesting was that as the sun heated the moist ground, it was creating thin trails of mist in the washes and wispy low clouds in the low mountains around town. Wow.

Horseback Riding

I dropped the tires off and took the truck back home. My friend Janet called along the way. She’s visiting the area from Colorado, where she now lives. She used to live in Wickenburg and then in Congress, which is one town north of Wickenburg, but like so many of our friends, she moved away in search of a place better matched to her lifestyle. She’s an artist who paints original artwork on turkey feathers. While that might sound tacky, it really isn’t. You can see some of her work on her Web site and in a number of galleries and gift shops throughout the southwest.

Janet has three horses. Although they were in Wickenburg for a few weeks, her husband took them home when he returned a week or so ago. Janet’s here for some more business and to help out a friend before she heads home. She’s got one of their two dogs with them, Maggie, a part hound dog who looks a lot like the dog from The Simpson’s, but brownish red. Janet and I planned to go horseback riding the day before, but weather had cancelled that plan. With nothing else scheduled that morning, we figured we’d try again.

I’d been home less than a half hour when she showed up with Maggie. I showed her my baby chicks — she raises turkeys — and we went down to fetch the horses. We had them both saddled up and ready to go a while later. She’d be riding Jake, Mike’s horse. I’d be riding Cherokee.

By this time, we’d attracted the attention of our neighbor’s dogs, Trixie and the 6-month-old Charlotte. Charlotte had gone for her first ever ride with us about two weeks before and other than getting lost once for about 10 minutes, she did fine. Trixie always follows us. Jack, of course, lives to go out on the trail. And we had Maggie, too. So that was four dogs with two horseback riders.

The hills around our home were green with new grass and really pretty. We don’t get much rain in the desert so we don’t have much green anything. When it does rain, the grass grows quickly, seizing life to produce seed for the next generation in record time. The green stuff out there was mostly about four inches long and looked like a carpet. It would be nice to ride through all that green.

We headed out up the hill to our house and down the trail beside my neighbor’s property into the state land. Cherokee started acting up right away and we had to do a little rodeo routine before he agreed to follow Jake down the trail. Cherokee is lazy and, for some reason, he thinks he can get away with crap like that with me. He tries half heartedly to throw me off but I hang on, give him a good slap on the side of his neck, and we get back to the business at hand. Cherokee is not the kind of horse you put a “dude” on.

We took a trail that headed out toward the golf course at Rancho de los Caballeros, then way back out into the desert. The dogs ran around, chasing rabbits and each other, but always coming back within sight within a few minutes. Janet and I chatted about various things, moving along at a moderate pace along the trails. Janet was leading and each time she came to an intersection, I’d call out “left” or “right” to guide us along the way.

We were at the base of the trail that climbed to the top of a mountain ridge — we call it the “Ridge Trail” — when we realized that Maggie was missing. Janet said she often catches the scent of another animal and takes off after it but she’s usually back within fifteen minutes or so. We climbed the trail and stopped at the top to admire the view (which is spectacular), give the horses a rest and a chance to nibble at the grass, and do a dog head count. Maggie was still missing.

Janet was sure she’d catch up to us, so after about ten minutes, we continued on our way. We took a trail down the back side of the ridge that wound through a wide canyon — we call that one “Deer Valley” because we often see deer there. That dumped us out at a big trail intersection and I chose another trail that would bring us home. Our total ride was only about 4 miles, but I thought that was enough for Charlotte.

Maggie was still missing.

Search for the Missing Dog

She was also missing when we got back to my house. By that time, Janet was worried. I told he we’d take the Jeep out to Los Caballeros, as close as we could get to the point we’d last seen Maggie. I gave her every indication of confidence that we’d find Maggie. I felt confident, but I don’t know why. There were thousands of acres of empty desert out there.

We unsaddled, brushed out the horses, and dropped them off in their lower corral. We watched them do some synchronized rolling in the sand, then walked back up to the house to check with Mike about Maggie. No, she hadn’t shown up. I called Los Cab and left a message at the wrangler’s office. We thought there was a possibility that Maggie might have hooked up with other horseback riders out there and followed them back to the ranch.

We climbed into the Jeep and headed out. The ranch was our first stop. Two people had just come in for a ride and were brushing off their mules. No, they hadn’t seen a dog out there. We headed out to the skeet shooting range, which is one of the points accessible by car that was close to the trail we’d been on. Not that close, obviously, but within a half mile. There was no one there, so I parked and we got out. We called and whistled.

Janet caught sight of two riders out in the distance. For some reason, they kept stopping on the trail. Janet thought that maybe Maggie was with them, but we couldn’t see that far (or low) and they were well out of earshot.

We got back into the Jeep and after a few wrong turns, made our way to a little junkyard I’ve seen from the air a few times. I’d actually ridden through it years ago on my first horse and I knew it was pretty darn close to the bottom of the Ridge Trail’s climb. I drove through it, as far as I could before the two-track road ended. Then we parked and got out. We climbed a nearby hill and saw the trail we’d been on right on the other side of a fence. The barbed wire was hanging low in one spot and I gingerly stepped over it to get a better view out toward the wash.

We called and whistled and called. At this point, I started realizing the futility of the situation. If the dog was out there and she heard us, our voices and whistles would be echoing off all the hills around her. How would she know which way to go?

I was on my cell phone, calling the local police to see if the dog catcher had picked up a dog when I caught sight of something moving in the distance. The color was right. It was Maggie, running toward us. I told Janet I saw her, then told the policeman who’d answered the phone why I’d called and that the dog had been found. By the time I hung up, Maggie was with us.

We walked back to the Jeep where I had a dog dish and some water. Maggie seemed glad to have it. She didn’t seem the least bit concerned that she’d been away from us for close to two hours. We loaded her into the Jeep and went home.

The Garage Project, Part I

Mike was already working on the project we were supposed to be doing that day: cleaning out half the garage and putting in shelves to neatly store our accumulated crap. (Who’s law is it that says your collection of junk will always expand to fill the available space to store it?) He was very surprised to see us return with Maggie. He stopped what he was doing — pulling junk out of the garage and piling it on the driveway — and kept us company while we ate lunch. Then Janet and Maggie left and we had no excuse not to get back to work.

Well, we actually did have an excuse. Mike had called the owner of a pickup truck for sale in town. The truck, a 1994 Ford with 4WD and an extended cab, was exactly what we wanted to get as a spare truck we can leave at Howard Mesa. The price was within range. Just as we’d pulled all our junk out of the garage, the owner called, ready to meet with us. So we climbed in Mike’s pickup and headed into town. We drove the truck, agreed that it needed a new transmission, and told the owner we’d have our mechanic call him later in the week. Then, after two quick stops at the local Alco store, we went home and got back to work.

Mike had the idea of setting up a camera to do a timelapse movie of our setup. This was a great idea and easy enough. I brought my MacBook Pro out, set up EvoCam software to take a shot every minute and turn it into a movie, and pointed the camera at the blank wall where the shelves would go. Then we got to work.

The shelves were an Ikea product with a typically cryptic name. We’d used them before, in our house in New Jersey, and Mike had bought some new pieces so we’d have enough to cover the wall. What we discovered is that Ikea doesn’t make these things as heavy-duty as they used to. The wood was thinner throughout. Even the bolts were smaller. But they were still sturdy, and went up quickly, despite interruptions by my neighbor’s kids and numerous dogs.

Here’s the video:

Day’s End

It was pretty much dark by the time we finished. Since the forecast didn’t call for any rain, we just left most everything outside, closed the garage door, and came in for supper.

Mike grilled up some elk hamburgers, which tasted excellent with American cheese on them. With that, we had the ratatouille he’d cooked up earlier in the day. We stowed the dishes in the dishwasher and headed upstairs.

I was dead asleep by 8 PM.

What do you think?