Living on a horse ranch, Patti and I have adjusted to a new lifestyle. A little over a year ago, we were empty nesters in a 48-floor apartment in downtown Chicago. Seems like if you are 48-floors high, the term “nest” is appropriate.

Now, well …

How about a suburban Dallas ranch, just down the street from South Fork, for those of you familiar with the TV show, “Dallas”?

Typical housefly that is my nemesis

One of the things that we have had to adjust to on the ranch is the prevalence of flies. Horses attract flies, so, even though we don’t live in the barn, we still get flies in the house.

So, we have a very good flyswatter. And, routinely, I take on the bloodthirsty task of killing the flies so they don’t become roommates. After all, they don’t pay rent. They really don’t do anything but become a real nuisance.

Now, over the past several months of killing the suckers, I have developed a routine, but please be patient as I explain my routine.

When I was younger, I was a real fan of TV westerns. I watched ’em all: “Maverick”, “Cheyenne,” “The Rifleman,” “Wanted: Dead or Alive,” “Gunsmoke,” “Wild Wild West,” “Wagon Train,” “The Virginian,” “Big Valley.” You name it, if it was a western, I watched it and really loved ’em all.

One of my favorites was “Have Gun Will Travel,” starring Richard Boone.  Man, Richard Boone as Paladin was the ultimate cool. He wore black, rode a black horse, had business cards. I mean, really, business cards for a gunslinger?

Paladin's business card

For me, there was no one cooler than Paladin, although Steve McQueen in “Wanted: Dead or Alive” came very, very close.

So, here’s the routine. Whenever I spot a fly or flies in the house, I get the flyswatter and go after the little suckers.

And, when I kill one, I immediately turn on a western accent and start singing the theme song to “Have Gun Will Travel.”

So, SPLAT! goes the flyswatter. Lifeless lies the fly, Then, the following begin emanating from the house:

Have gun will travel reads the card of a man, A knight without armor in a savage land …” Sometimes, I hobble around like a bow-legged bull rider while singing the song and celebrating the kill.

Ultimate cool Richard Boone as Paladin

Sometimes when it is quiet, the TV is off, and Patti is in another part of the house, she will hear “Paladin, Paladin, where do you roam” and know that somewhere in the house a fly has bitten the dust. Yeah, I know, we don’t get out much.

If you are so inclined, the lyrics to the theme from “Have Gun Will Travel” follow below:

Have gun will travel reads the card of a man
A knight without armor in a savage land
His fast gun for hire heeds the calling wind
A soldier of fortune is a man called Paladin
Paladin Paladin where do you roam Paladin Paladin far far from home

He travels on to wherever he must
A chess knight of silver is his badge of trust
There are campfire legends that the plainsmen sing
Of a man with the gun of the man called Paladin
Paladin Paladin where do you roam Paladin Paladin far far from home
Far far from home far far from home

Now, aren’t those lyrics just plain wonderful? Well, I just usually mumble only a couple of lines from the song to celebrate the death of a fly. But, hey, if you want to sing the whole song, go for it.

And, the hits keep on comin’. Lately, we’ve had a lot of kinfolk around the house. One day recently , I saw my father-in-law with the flyswatter. I heard the sound of the flyswatter, then a moment later, in his 86-year-old voice, I heard him hum the theme song from “Bonanza.” Somewhere, Lorne Greene is smiling.

First, please forgive me for a real lack of postings lately. Read on to understand why.

The source of this posting has its origin in carrots!

About a month ago, Patti and I decided to go out to the stables to feed the horses carrots. We had not done that in a while because of the heat and thought the evening would be a good time to go … and cooler. Once we got there, we noticed that hay containers and water buckets for these animals were empty. And, the horses were putting on quite a show — kicking their stalls, whinnying loudly, reaching over their stall walls to bite the horses next to them. Clearly, they were agitated … and in a big way.

We found out later the ranch manager had quit and not given anyone his notice.

Patti and I collectively have enough knowledge of horses to fill a thimble … half full. But, occasionally, a little logic can be a good thing, and, if you’re not careful, a bad thing. I’ll explain the bad thing later.

So, we jumped into action. Patti called Lisa, our sister-in-law, and owner of the ranch. She was traveling and could not immediately jump into action, but she gave us information to start.  We also reached out to a neighbor, Tiffany, who, in the past, managed the ranch for a while and had worked closely with Lisa on its day-to-day operation.  Both gave us advice on what to do, but Tiffany was headed out on vacation to Myrtle Beach, so our access to her was limited.

After some trial and error, we learned where the light switches were,  found the water source to fill the water buckets and the part of the barn where hay was stored. Yep,  it was that basic for us and where we had to start.  Once we ID’d the basics, Patti and I were confident we were rockin’ and rollin’ now.  We had 30 horses to take care of in two stables and three pastures. One stable had seven stalls; the other had 2o. And a few horses were out in the pastures.

We learned that with the current heat in the Dallas area reaching the high 90s and low 100s that water was extremely important for the horses. Consequently, we needed to water the hoofers three times a day. Here’s the bad thing I mentioned earlier. I had thought that we just fill the water buckets, no biggie. But sometime later when a vet was visiting the horses, we learned about the importance of making sure the buckets were clean so parasites and other bad juju could not find their way into the horses stomachs. They could get very, very sick. Also, the vet told us that while we cannot give them too much hay, we could, in fact, give them too much oats. If we gave them too much oats, they could get violently sick. It’s a learning thing.

We also needed to make sure they had hay in morning and evening.

So, Patti and I got up early each day to tote the bales and fill the water buckets. Our dog, Gillis, would accompany us throughout the day to take care of the horses. We worried the pup of six months might get on the wrong side of the horses and get kicked, but it never happened. Somehow, he inherently knew how to move around the horses to avoid getting kicked. So, he  knew more about the horses than we did.

As we went about the chores, I would sing the theme song from Have Gun Will Travel to the horses: “Have gun will travel reads the card of a man. His fast gun for hire in a lawless land,” while Patti and I filled their water buckets and gave them “flakes” of hay to fill their food buckets. We would also sing the Green Acres song, too. Each feeding, we would give them about six-seven bales of hay. Early on, I thought this was really cool. I had watched all the westerns when I was a child: the Virginian, Bonanza, Wanted: Dead or Alive, Cheyenne, Have Gun Will Travel; basically all the westerns that were popular on TV. At that time, I lived on the desert of New Mexico. Lots of ranches around the small town where I lived then. Once, I went to a branding on one of the local ranches near where we lived. I learned about how to hold a calf down for a branding, and also learned that Rocky Mountain oysters did not come from the sea.

So, the chance to take care of horses sounded somewhat romantic and appealing to both Patti and me. We went about our work. The heat was tough, but so were the flies. Even though there were flycatchers all around, there were still massive amounts of flies. We installed 11 large flycatchers in the stables. After just a few days of watching thousands of flies sacrificing themselves on the catchers, I half expected to be indicted by an international tribunal for running an Auschwitz or Buchenwald for flies. There was massive deaths of flies occurring in the stables.

After each feeding, Patti and I were dog tired and hot as hell.  After about a week of feeding these little darlings, I  no longer was singing the theme song from Have Gun Will Travel. I was thinking more about the movie They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?

Just to stay as healthy as we could, we washed after each feeding, and sometimes showered after each feeding. I noticed that whenever I came in from a feeding, not only was my shirt drippin’ wet, but my jeans were soaked, too.  So, I showered a lot.

Once, a vet came to check on one of the horses that had an eye infection. Chuck was a tremendous source of information. He showed me how to put a bridle on a horse. Once again, a little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing. Once Chuck showed me how to put a bridle on, I started letting the horses out of their stables and let them stretch their legs in the large corral. The first few times, I did not get the bridle right, but the hoofers were patient and followed me to the corral any way. After a while I got the hang of the bridle.

One time, I was bringing Denali from the corral back to the stable and as I brought him to his stall, he stepped on my foot. Oh, my Lord, I had no idea what pain was until this beast momentarily parked his hoof  on my foot. I felt like Mel Gibson getting eviscerated at the end of Braveheart.

After about 3-4 weeks, Lisa had returned from her travel and hired a couple of folks who have horse knowledge to take over for Patti and me.

After we finished and had a few days to think about our work, Patti asked me if I had learned anything from this experience.

I told her that, indeed, I had learned a few things. Here they are:

— There is a big difference between romance and reality. For example, whenever I watched those westerns as a child, the actors were RIDING the horses in front of the cameras, not feeding or watering them. Somebody else off screen was doing the wrangling and feeding.

— It is rewarding to help animals who can’t take care of themselves and need help. It was good to help and the hoofers appreciated our efforts.

— We found a great deal of fun in all this. For example, one day, I had opened Denali’s stall a slight bit to fill his water buckets. I had to step inside his stall because his buckets were not near the door. As I stepped in and began filling the buckets, Denali, peeked outside the door, looked left and then right, and nosed the door open further and began walking out of the stall, like no one would see this 1,500 pound steed. It was as if he was Steve McQueen making The Great Escape. THAT was fun.

— We don’t like flies AT ALL.

— Fall and cooler temperatures can’t come soon enough.