For the past three and a half weeks, Patti and I have been traveling. We put the trip meter on 0 when we pulled out of the driveway and after conclusion of the trip, we noticed the same trip meter read 4646.2 miles. For this trip, I believe there was a memory for every mile. Let me tell you how this started.

Early in our marriage, Patti and I had the “vacation” talk. Together, we discussed and resolved answers to the following questions: How do you like to spend your time on vacation? Where do you like to go? Are you a “go-see-things-and-keep-going” person or a person who likes to go land somewhere and relax?

After our discussion we realized that the two families we came from had different answers to these questions. Patti and her family were pretty much go to the beach, crash, relax, refresh and return. And, since her dad was a teacher, sometime her vacations were two months or longer at the beach. My family was pretty much the opposite: Dad would have, at the most, two weeks off. We’d go see things and keep going. We’d get back home the Sunday before Dad would have to be back at work on Monday.

But, over the years of our marriage, Patti and I refined our answers to these same questions a bit more. Patti is a water/beach person; I’m a mountain person.

So, for this travel trip, Patti graciously agreed to do a mountain trip with me. Besides, we wanted to be in Missoula, Montana on the appropriate date to see our niece, Ciara, graduate from high school. We wanted to drive and not fly.

Along the way, we had Sirius/XM radio to keep us company and informed. We enjoyed the highway travel, and, I must admit, when I was driving, I spent very little time looking at the road because I was “goshing” and “geeing” about the high peaks, snow fields, vast plains, the endless beautiful vistas, the babbling brooks and creeks next to the roads. These creeks flow quickly toward the Mississippi on the east side of the continental divide and toward the Pacific on the west side of the divide.

We were tourists all the way. While we enjoyed seeing the massive wind farms in West Texas, the ominous presence of the long-dormant volcano, Capulin Mountain in northern New Mexico, was a reminder of what the land was like long before it was civilized.

We visited Pike’s Peak near Manitou Springs, Colorado; Rocky Mountain National Park in Estes Park, Colorado; the wide-open plains of Wyoming; Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota; Devil’s Tower in Wyoming; Little Big Horn River and Custer’s last stand in Montana; very, very windy plains in Idaho; Brigham Young’s beautiful and enticing Salt Lake City; the site of Butch Cassidy’s first bank robbery, Telluride, Colorado; the inspiring glacier and wind-sculpted Shiprock in New Mexico; the adobe pueblos of Santa Fe; the very, very small towns of eastern New Mexico and West Texas.

Devil’s Tower

That was quite a bit of driving, but we enjoyed every minute of it. While we drove, I kept thinking of Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley, and Heat-Moon’s Blue Highways. Passing through the canyon lands of Utah, I kept looking for John Wayne on horseback looking for Natalie Wood, dressed as an Indian squaw. We tried not to speed and just soak up the ambiance of the landscapes. As such, we had plenty of time to talk and laugh and be distracted by an endless supply of beautiful sights.

But since every day is a new opportunity for a learning experience, we did learn a few things along the way. Here are just a few:

  • The vastness of the mountain views, the endless rolling plains left Patti and me with a feeling that every step we took and every mile we drove, we were surrounded by God’s imagination
  • The damage a simple tree beetle can do to a forest is just astronomical and very disappointing
  • The higher up you go in the mountains the less obesity you see or notice
  • In talking with various people along the way, the longer people lived in the shadow of gorgeous mountains, the less they noticed them
  • Along the two-lane roads in Wyoming, just because a road sign says its 42 miles to the next town doesn’t mean there will be a gas station or cafe there
  • Even though Devil’s Tower is famous for the alien encounter scene in Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kindit is also a religious site for numerous North American Indian tribes, and houses one of the largest groundhog communities in North America
  • It was very refreshing to see Mt. Rushmore very crowded with visitors, even though it is in a remote part of South Dakota
  • in 2012, because of the influence of Wal-Marts, Best Buys and other retailers, Montrose, Colorado looks just like Dothan, Alabama, and that’s a real shame
  • If you walk down the sidewalks of Telluride, Colorado and you see a couple walking a Lab, a Golden Retriever and a lamb wearing a diaper, you are not seeing things
  • I have first-hand evidence that it is very much not true that when you hit a golf ball at 10,000 foot elevation it will go farther than if you hit the ball at sea level
  • Touring the entire breadth of the Little Big Horn Battlefield, one can’t help but feel that Gen. Custer was so stupid, so vain and so arrogant, and 210 American soldiers were sacrificed because of his flaws
  • There is absolutely no feeling I have ever experienced like standing before a church congregation and thanking them for their prayers to God for my health and well-being.

And because of these learnings, 4646.2 has become an important number to Patti and me.

I’ll share details with you over the next few weeks. God bless you all.


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.