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Sunday, April 19, 2015

Sunday morning and Jackie and I pull out the cameras and all of the scientific meters. I’m downloading the video files onto my hard drive using the firewire and moviemaker program.
“Click, capture, click, publish. I will have Sally Ann on this tape, I guarantee it, maybe even her aberration,” I tell Jackie.
She answers, “Yeah Christina, sure, an aberration. I don’t think so.”
After an hour or so of reviewing the video I tell Jackie, “See, I told you there isn’t one shutter on any of those windows in the ghost town, not one! What do you say to that? Where did that banging shutter come from?”
Watching the last ten minutes of the video of the ghost town, suddenly I hear, “%^&*($#@)&%%)@#$)(&^%$$#.”
“What’s that? Jackie did you hear that?” The hair fuzz on my arms stands up.
“No, I didn’t hear anything, just static,” Jackie replies.
“Play that back, the hotel part,” I shriek.
“Wow! Did you hear it that time?” Convinced.
“I think I heard something, Christina, but it sounds like noise to me.”
“Play it again,” I demand.
“I heard it that time, it’s static all right. Christina, you heard static, that’s all it is,” Jackie insists.
“No, that’s an EVP. We just heard a recording of the disembodied voice of Sally Ann. She was talking to us.” I jump to my feet.
“Christina, no one will believe that noise is Sally Ann?” Jackie adds.
“We need something else, and it has to match up the with the same time line when we recorded Sally Ann’s EVP.” I’m serious.
Running to my backpack for the other meters, “Let’s get the rest of the equipment and check everything we had at the ghost town. The approximate time of the encounter was at about one hour and fifteen minutes into the investigation.”
“I’m on it,” Jackie answers, doubtful.
In the next ten minutes we take out every piece of equipment we had there and check all the readings and cross-reference everything with the time line.
“Looks like the only device with a reading is the radio frequency detector. It recorded eighty MHz (Mega Hertz), whatever that means?” I say.
Jackie answers, “I’m not sure? It must mean something?”
One thing I know, the eighty MHz of electro-magnetic radiation had to come from something. That’s why Dad’s K-2 meter was lighting up outside the hotel. Sally Ann was there.
Sometimes spirits communicate in that frequency, or so I’ve heard. It could have come from the natural magnetic field in the atmosphere or a computer screen, electric motor, cell phones, or walkie-talkies.
I nod, “I’ll prove it to you, that was Sally Ann. Hold on, hold on. I got a text from Mike. I wonder if he got the cell phone picture I sent him yesterday? Remember when I went down that hallway inside the hotel?”
I read his text out loud, “Ha-ha, pls, u r trying to trick me! U think throwing powder in the air and taking a picture of it, will make me think it’s a ghost? Lol the picture you sent me is a fake.”
“What is he talking about, I didn’t throw any powder,” I scroll to the message I sent him and look at the picture.
“Oh my God look Jackie! It’s an apparition of Sally Ann in the hotel room! I caught her with my cell camera. She’s standing in the corner pointing her finger at something.”
Jackie looks at the picture. “It looks like someone threw powder into the air. How do you know that is her? It could be her brother?”
I inspect the photo. “It’s got to be her! She’s a little bit of a thing. Kind of cute, huh. First she talked to us and now I have a picture of her. I’ve got her now!”
Besides Jackie look at the time I sent the photo, it was taken at one hour and two minutes into the investigation The EVP was recorded at one hour and ten minutes in, remember? That’s around the same time.
It must have taken all of her strength to materialize and talk to us. I wonder what she is trying to tell us?
I continue checking all the meters and digital film from the ghost town, but find nothing else. “Looks like that’s it, the cell phone picture, EVP, and we got the radio frequency field strength meter that recorded the eighty megahertz (MHz), whatever that means?” I look at Jackie.
She replies, “I kind of know, it’s a magnetic field given off by stuff, just like EMF. The RF meter measures electro-magnetic radiation given off by objects like microwave signal towers, satellite television signals, or radio signals. And it’s all measured in megahertz (MHz).”
I pitch in, “Sometimes the radiation is just hanging around in the air. But it could be a spirit trying to ‘cross over’?”
Jackie wraps it up, “Or one trying to come back?”
Dad walks in the door after returning from his Sunday morning basketball game with the guys from work.
I jump at him, “We recorded Sally Ann’s EVP. And the RF meter had a reading of eighty MHz at the exact same time we heard Sally Ann. And remember the K-2 was lighting up by the hotel?  I double-checked everything, every meter and all the stuff. There isn’t anything else. That’s everything we got at the ghost town. Oh, and we got the picture.”
Dad looks at me over the top of his reading glasses. “You got a picture?”
I reply, “Yeah, you know the one I took with my cell phone in the hotel? I sent it to Mike. He sent it back a text saying I tried to trick him by throwing powder in front of the camera. When I looked at the photo I sent him, I realized it was Sally Ann’s apparition in the picture. That proves she was there. I knew it.”
Dad motions for me to hand him my phone so he can see the picture, “Could be, could be.” He looks closer at it, “I’ll bring the picture to work and analyze it.”
I add, “I’ll send it to you.”
He answers, “I thought we agreed not to enter the buildings?”
I ignore him.
Dad says, “I’ll count up the electro-magnetic radiation given off by the stuff we had at the ghost town. Hum, let’s see, three cell phones, that’s five MHz and the cameras are about ten MHz. We have to add the radio frequency EMF and light meters, they’re about six MHz, so that’s twenty-one MHz. And the Altimeter, that’s another three, total twenty-four. That’s nowhere near eighty MHz, we have fifty-six MHz unaccounted for.”
Dad states, “I have to bring the EVP recording to work and see if I can enhance the file on the equipment we have there. I’ll give it a forensic audio treatment (FAT) and an acoustical signal analysis (ASC). The FAT will tell us any characteristics of the recording—for example distortion, excessive noise, the speed of the sound, if the tape is demagnetized or if a dropout is present. The ASC will decipher hard to hear inaudible speech signals through forensic phonetic experimentation. If it is a recording of speech, the graphical representation or spectrogram can be printed out. That will give us a voice picture of someone or something. It's kind of similar to a photographic picture of a person.”
“Dad, I double-checked everything, every meter, and all the files on the cameras. There isn’t anything else. We got the EVP recording of Sally Ann, the radio frequency reading of eighty MHz, your K-2 readings, and of course the picture.  That’s everything from the ghost town.”
I continue, “I think it proves there was something there? It’s conclusive. I know it. I know we recorded Sally Ann or maybe her brother.”
Jackie adds, “I think it was her brother, Simeon.”
“Dad, ya know I’ve been meaning to ask you, what do you do at work anyway?” I ask.
“Oh, I just test stuff, different equipment, that’s all.”
“I’ll bring this recording of Sally Ann’s EVP to work and analyze it when no one is around. You and Jackie check the Internet for information about anything paranormal that gives off fifty to sixty MHz of electromagnetic energy. See what you can find out. And remember, not a word to anyone.”

Dad is reading the newspaper at the kitchen table when he bursts out, “Hey a ghost was seen at Donner Pass.”
“What ghost?” Confused I ask, “What and where is Donner Pass?”
Dad looks over at me, “Donner Pass is in the mountains about three hours south of here and the Donner Party disaster was a historic wagon train headed west that got caught in a blizzard and most of the pioneers died.
Dad reads me the article. “Mrs. Eleanor Waldo of Phantom Hill, Texas, told her story. She said she and her husband were stopped at the overlook rest area, sitting at a picnic table when she saw it.
“’It was a ghost all right. It looked like a thick cloud of smoke with a head. But it was a woman with a stone face and a broad smile. She hovered right in front of me, staring at me.’
“The ghost asked me, ’Would you like to come to dinner?’
“I followed it up the mountain as it kept saying, ’Come with me, I would love to have you for dinner.’
“Interrupting Mrs. Waldo I asked, ’Wait a minute, the ghost said I would love to have you for dinner?’
“Mrs. Waldo looked surprised at the way I phrased my question as she replied, ’Oh you don’t think she meant I am the dinner do you? Oh my, maybe she did.’
“Mrs. Waldo squealed, and continued with her story, ’I followed it up the mountain and when we started down the other side, I saw an old rusted-out car with a skeleton sitting at the steering wheel, driving.’
“’As I got closer and closer to the car, a great gust of wind blew right through me and kicked up so much sand, I had to close my eyes. When I opened my eyes I gasped, the skeleton was gone.’
“She said she heard her husband calling her to come back. When he caught up to her she told him about the ghost.’
“He exclaimed with frustration in his voice, ’that’s nonsense Elle, it’s the heat.  It’s one hundred and nine degrees. You didn’t see anything.’
“She told her husband to hush up, then sat in the old nineteen thirty-five Buick for a while. ‘It’s a nineteen thirty-five Buick. My family had one of these when I was a child.’
“Mrs. Waldo continued her story saying, ’I checked out every nook and cranny of that car. My husband and I checked the car from its headlights to the taillights. Under one of the seats we found an old empty bottle of whiskey.’
“She said that she was feeling around under the dashboard and found that hidden compartment she and her sister had stored stuff in when they were kids. In the compartment were chips, poker chips, lots of poker chips.
“Her husband counted them up. There was twenty thousand dollars.
“’Twenty thousand dollars!’ he said again and again.
“Mrs. Waldo cried out, ’Can you believe it?’
“The newspaper reporter called the casino manager and asked how much the twenty thousand dollars in poker chips are worth?
“The casino spokesperson said, ’The chips are worth twenty thousand dollars at our casino.’”
I learned about the Donner Party in school. They were settlers headed to California in a wagon train in eighteen forty-six. There were about ninety people of all ages. Winter came early and heavy snow trapped them in the mountains. Not all of them lived through it.
The wagon train didn’t have enough food and blankets, and many of the settlers died of hunger, exposure, and frostbite. Those few settlers that did live, told stories of terrible hardship and horrible acts. They did things that people are not supposed to do.
I’m pretty sure this ghost we are going to hunt is not resting in peace, if you know what I mean.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

On your mark, get set…

“On your mark, get set…” The starter’s words ring out over the public address system, “Bang!” He fires his pistol into the air.
Drivers snap their reins, sending a clear message to the teams. Shaking the ground, they sprint away from the starting line, twenty feet of horses followed by twenty more feet of iron, wood, and canvas.
Racing into the first turn, wagons squeeze together as drivers lean to the inside to keep their balance, each expert coachman controlling ten tons of flesh and carriage, thundering down the track. Racing through the turn, the wagons reflect the light of the setting sun behind them. They pass the shadows of shade trees under Western blue skies. Into the straightaway they sprint, a continuous stream of dust kicks up into the air behind them. Maneuvering for position, each team tries to take the lead.
The announcer calls out their order as they enter the last turn. “It’s the Hawker Ranch in the lead, followed by the Bond Farm, La Rosa Ranch is third, and bringing up the rear is the Quest Group!”
Coming through the backstretch and heading for the finish, the teams gallop four abreast. A mountain of wood and animals roar past the grandstands.
People are jumping up and down, waving colored bandanas and hats. Everyone is standing, electrified, as the teams stampede by.
My seat vibrates as if a clap of thunder has just struck nearby.
All of a sudden, Crash! Boom! Bang! Comes from the finish line in an explosion. Clouds of dust the size of hot air balloons rise above, obscuring the finish, silencing the arena. Air currents scoop up the dust and carry it away, revealing a mound of wagons and horse teams in chaos.
Horses are tangled, trapped, raising their heads, straining to be free. Two teams of horses are knotted together, amid the pandemonium, and two lone horses are ensnared by wagons, held captive by their harnesses in the mangled wreckage.
What once were horse-drawn wagons are now twisted metal, torn canvas, and splintered wood.
The crowd, already silent, lets out a collective gasp, “Oh!”
A man behind me sighs, “They are going to have to destroy that horse.” He points at a trapped horse.
I leap from my seat, cross the blacktop, and climb to the top of the arena fence.
A grisly sight, horses are whinnying and snorting, struggling to be liberated, gasping for freedom.
“Looks bad,” a man nearby whispers to his friend.
It’s a miracle; all the drivers and passengers seem to have escaped injury. A few can be seen, in shock, eyeing the devastation, not knowing what to do first.
Trainers, bronco riders, and calf ropers are risking their lives running into the wreck to rescue the teams of horses.
Men brandishing blades of steel cut agitated horses from their harnesses. Spooked, shaking their heads, one Appaloosa and an Arabian dash in opposite directions. They run erratically through the arena, each turning at different intervals, only to dart back from where they came.
More men rush to help, carefully crossing the track, glancing in every direction, not wanting to be trampled by horses running wild in the arena.
One team of six horses, wagon less, is careening around the track eerily holding their heads high—manes blowing in the wind—bodies sweating—eyes bulging.
Someone shouts in amazement, “There goes Doc Cuthberson! Look at him climb into the wreckage!”
Another man yells, “He’s fearless!”
Before anyone can blink an eye, he’s in the middle of the debris grasping the reins of one ensnared horse, pulling it to its feet. Reaching to untangle another, he coaxes it to his side. Everyone in the bleachers is in shock, motionless, eyeing his every move.
Horses are still running loose in the stadium. Cowboys, with lassoes in hand, are chasing them down. Wagons from the massive wreck are being hoisted and towed from the pileup by teams of men with trucks and chains.
Holding the horses, he perilously stands his ground, ordering the cowboys, “Pull there! Push that wagon! Now that one!” He yells, “Hurry boys, hurry.”
Cowboys are yelling, shouting orders to untangle the wagons surrounding Doc and the two remaining horses. Working feverishly side-by-side, they thrust and heave, determined to free up the wagons. Finally, untangled, they are swiftly pulled away.
Smiling, almost laughing, Doc emerges from the chaos jogging toward the main gate with the two horses in his grasp.
Concerned owners and trainers run to him, eager to take their horses and calm them with familiar words and comforting strokes. Cautiously they inspect them for injury, and then whisk them away to their stalls for further care.
Many in the crowd sigh, one concedes, “I’m glad that’s over with.”
Another exhales, “That was a close call.”
“Were any of the horses hurt bad?” I ask.
“Won’t know till Doc checks them out,” someone responds in a hopeful tone, winking and holding up two crossed fingers.
Now is my chance to see Doc Cuthberson—to save Neewa. I jump from the corral rails and sprint to the stables to find him.
Arriving in moments at a gigantic wooden barn between the arena and stables, I hesitate before entering. Slowly I peer around the corner and inside. Thick wooden timbers climb from the floor to the crossbeams that traverse its length and width above me. Dim sunlight shines through a few tattered boards protecting the loft full of hay from rain and wind. Bowls of milk for the cats sit on the floor near more hay and next to the green poison for the unwanted rats that will soon prowl here in the night.
On the hay-covered dirt floor, horses held by their trainers wait their turn for the vet’s assessment of every bump and bruise. Everyone is talking about the crash. Their voices are laden with concern. That’s when I see him, kneeling alongside an Appaloosa gelding of at least fifteen hands, examining, and gently patting his side.
Tears stream down my cheeks as I stagger up to him and cry out, “Dr. Cuthberson, my puppy has distemper—she is going to die—you’ve gotta save her!”
I plead, “Can you help her? Please?”
Perplexed, he looks up at me as he gets to his feet. Stepping away from his patient, he takes off his big hat and with one great swipe brushes off his jeans. Staring at me, he circles around the far side of the horse and continues his evaluation, checking head, front quarter, hindquarter, and legs.
At last he looks at me and says, “Little girl, what the heck are you doing here?”
Glancing away he spits a wad of chew onto the dirt floor and then observes the tears streaming down my cheek.
He leans over the horse between us and with a thick Western accent whispers, “Bring ‘er to my office tomorrow morning, I’ll take a look at ‘er, we’ll see what we can do.”
“Thank you, thank you,” I blubber wiping tears from under my eyes, standing, staring at him, in shock.
The concerned owner of this horse peers over Doc’s shoulder at me. Many others owners stand there among many horses patting their steeds, waiting their turn.
Doc turns to the man and says, “This one will be all right. Wrap up all four ankles good and tight.” He nods to a man in a white coat to his right watching every move.
The horse’s owner exhales in relief.
Turning on his heels Doc walks away, headed for the next one in line. A rancher walks up to him. Doc recognizes the man and smiles.
“Doc, I need you out at my ranch right away. I can fly you out in my plane,” the rancher says sounding troubled.
“I hardly use a car anymore,” Doc says as he walks alongside the rancher. “I have to check on the rest of these horses first. Then we’ll go.”
Both men have serious expressions on their faces as they go separate ways. Again Doc Cuthberson disappears, this time swallowed up by a swarm of horses and their caregivers.
I am overjoyed. All I know is he’s gonna see Neewa tomorrow. He’s going to save her. I know he is.
I turn and run toward the main fairgrounds leaving the chaos at the stables behind me. Sounds of whinnying horses being tended by worried trainers fade into the distance. While the cheerful sounds of the fair, come back into focus. I’m back in the hustle and bustle of the carnival and beside myself with happiness. Trying to hold back my sobbing and regain my composure, I stop near a bench along a walkway and sit.
Below the evening sky are the bright lights of the fairgrounds. The Ferris wheel turns against the star-studded backdrop. Riders scream as they reach the top of its great circle and then descend back to the ground. In the distance the Egyptian Boat rocks one way and then the other, increasing its arc, higher and higher with every to and fro.
I’m up and jogging again, encircled by people strolling, laughing, eating, and rushing to their next thrilling moment.
Vendors hawk their toys, beckoning would-be buyers to come forward.
The fair will be closing down later tonight, it’s over until next year.
I run to Dad who is sitting at the information booth where we agreed to meet.
“Christina, I haven’t been able to find him,” he blurts out.
“But I have,” I shout. “I found him and we can bring Neewa to his office in the morning.”
“He’s going to see her on a Sunday morning?” His voice gets louder in disbelief.
“Yeah, I got it covered. I’ll tell you all about it, but right now all I want to do is go home.”
Heading for the exit, with everyone else going home too, I spot Doctor Cuthberson being driven through the fairgrounds to the airport. He’ll soon be flying out to that ranch.
“He is going to see a sick horse out in Winnemucca,” says one man to another walking next to us. “The ranchers depend on him to care for the large animals in this county.”
“He’s the only one in these parts,” a woman chimes in.
“Yup, he travels miles to care for the horses, cattle, and sheep around here,” another adds.
Working my way through the crowd toward the van with Dad, my thoughts wander. No one told me he doctors only large animals. He’s different from the other veterinarian in town who cares for dogs, cats, and smaller pets. He stays in his office and has the animals come to him. Dr. Cuthberson flies across the county to take care of all the ranchers’ large animals.
Once in the car, I tell Dad the whole story. How I first laid eyes on him through the crowd of people. Where I ran to find him at the chuck wagon race, and all the riders and horses that barely escaped injury in the terrifying accident. And about witnessing all the people running to the rescue, and the Doctor in the middle of the wreck saving the trapped horses. Lastly, I tell Dad how I found him at the stables caring for every one of those horses.
We arrive at home and I run to check on Neewa. She is not well, about the same as when I left her this morning, maybe worse. She tries to drink some water from the bowl I raise to her mouth, but only takes a little. Her nose feels like dried leather. Trying to greet me, she shakes as she stands, then collapses down to the ground in a ball of white fur.
I cry as I tell her, “You have to hold on, I’m going to take you to the doctor tomorrow. He is going to save you!”
Neewa looks at me as if she understands. But her look tells me, this had better work, because I’m not gonna be able to hold on much longer.
I sob and tell her, “Tomorrow everything is going to be better. I know Dr. Cuthberson will save you.” I hold her close to me. “You have to make it through the night! You have to, you hear me!” I pull her face into mine. Her dried nose against my cheek.
“I can’t keep you inside Neewa, you’re too sick. You have to stay outside again tonight.” She looks at me with her sagging big gray eyes. I clean the crusty discharge from the corners and hold her close to me as she closes her eyes and falls asleep in my arms.

Saturday, July 7, 2012


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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Chapter 19 - Horses

Up ahead there is something on the side of the road. Neewa sees them, too. She is pacing from side to side in the back of the van.

About a hundred feet in front of us is a herd of about ten horses. They don’t look like they belong. Whose horses are they? Are we near a ranch? I don’t see any.

The horses that make up this group are all different sizes and colors. Some are large, a few are small and one appears to be a donkey.

As we drive closer, I see their long tails and manes are knotted, frayed and have burrs stuck in them.

The leader of the group is a black stallion, and he’s watching us and stirring to alert the herd. He’s a beautiful horse with a gray patch across his right back leg and another small swatch on his forehead.

His long black tail hangs down to the ground, while half his mane hangs on either side of his muscular neck. He looks skinny, but his coat shines on his powerfully built body.

I can tell he’s the leader because he puts himself between his herd and us to protect them, turning sideways to block our view of his family.

Neewa is getting more excited, jumping from seat to seat. She wants to run and play with the big dogs.

“They are not dogs,” I tell her.

She is making a high-pitched whining sound as if to say, “Let me out, let me out.”

Jackie is getting trampled, and is quite annoyed with Neewa as she jumps from front seat to back, and then to the front again.

“Let her out Dad, she has to go,” she exclaims.

Dad stops and opens the door. Neewa jumps out and runs up the road.

Dad pulls onto the shoulder. “Neewa is running right at the herd. I hope she knows what she’s doing.”

At that moment dread shoots from my brain down to my toes. The thought of losing Neewa had never occurred to me until that second.

“Dad, drive, drive, hurry up, catch her!” I cry out hitting his seat back with my hands.

At that moment the herd spooks. Snorting a warning, the stallion and his family rumble into the desert. He’s following his family, urging them into a full gallop.

Neewa is following them, running from one side of the herd to the other. As quickly as the horses appeared in front of us, they are gone over the hill. Then she disappears, gone into the miles and miles of sagebrush and sand.

My heart drops out of my chest. Neewa is gone and I don’t know if I will ever see her again. I feel my stomach in my throat.

Dad pulls over and I jump out.

Jackie yells, “Call her before she gets too far!”

“Neewa, Neewa, Neewa!” I yell, hoping she will hear me.

Dad whistles his loudest two-finger whistle, “Whistle! Whistle.”

I form my lips to whistle, but nothing comes out. I can’t whistle.

“Listen, stop!” I shout.

I never should have let her run out into the desert. She may never come back.

We all start yelling, “Neewa come! Neewa! Neewa!”

Again, we are silent. I listen for her to bark, or yelp, or something. Seconds pass like minutes. You can hear a pin drop.

“I hear something.” I’m not sure what it is in the distance, is that her?

I cry out, “It sounds like Neewa barking, I hear her.”

I call out, “Neewa, Neewa!”

I look at Dad, then Jackie. “I hear a jingling sound.”

Jackie exclaims, “It’s more like a jingle ding, jingle ding.”

That jingle ding sound is coming from Neewa’s charm, the one Chester put on her collar.

At that moment Neewa’s head appears to pop up out of the sand dune.

She is sprinting for us. Sand kicks up into the air behind her as she makes her way down the soft sand. Then she jumps right up on me, pushing me backwards onto the ground. She licks my face and walks all over me.

Jackie and Dad come to my rescue, picking me up off the ground by my arms.

Neewa jumps up on me with her front paws stretching all the way up onto my shoulders while standing on her hind legs.

She pushes off me and her paws hit the ground as she wags her tail.

Hugging her, I stroke her neck and side and scratch her behind the ears.

“I thought I lost you, Neewa,” I exclaim.

“You came back,” Jacqueline exclaims as she cuddles her.

She wags her tail, whines and lets out a “Yelp.”

We all jump in the car and off we go.

“They are wild horses and they run free on the desert. They belong to no one,” Dad speaks.

“Where did they all come from? How do they live? What do they eat?”

Dad answers my bombardment of questions, one after the other. “They live out on the desert and they eat whatever vegetation they can find. Many years ago wild horses were rounded up and shipped to slaughterhouses. Hundreds of thousands of them were killed. Some were kept for work horses on ranches.”

Dad describes, “Wild horses were indigenous to North America, populating this continent before the Ice Age. They moved north across the Bering land bridge, fanned out from Siberia to the rest of Asia, Europe and the Middle East, and then became extinct here. When Europeans reintroduced horses to the Americas in the 16th century, some escaped and formed wild herds. By 1900, there were two million wild horses in America. Their major predators, such as the mountain lion, were all but wiped out, and for more than a century their biggest enemy has been man. Horse roundups and massacres went unchecked for decades until Wild Horse Annie came along.”

Friday, March 9, 2012

“Cowboying is when you round up cattle and drive them to wherever you want them to go.”

Chapter 27 - Cowboying
Last night Jackie was hired to do baby-sitting and slept over our neighbor’s house, the Burns. She went to school from their house this morning. And after school she had dinner with them and waited for Dad and I to get back from our long day of cowboying.
After being out all day cowboying, I come running in the door trying to contain myself. It’s around 9:00 PM at night and I try to act casual.
I say to Jackie, “How did baby-sitting go last night? Did Hank and Jane get home late?”
“No, not too late. It went good. Brice and I designed clothes. Then we had a fashion show and put on matching tops with boas and stuff. It was a lot of fun.
I got to sleep in Brice’s room. She has two twin beds, really comfortable. It was more like a sleep over, and I made some really big bucks babysitting, twenty dollars,” Jackie says with a sassy tone.
“Very cool, that’s a lot of money. You want to hear my amazing cowboying story?” I screech.
Jackie knew we had gone cowboying. It was all prearranged, her staying with the Burn’s overnight. They live right across the street. Jackie did not want to go cowboying, she thinks its barbaric to eat meat, she’s a vegetarian.
We had left really early in the morning and we knew we wouldn’t be getting home till late. Besides Jackie couldn’t go cause she had talent show practice, and she didn’t want to miss that.
This whole adventure began a few weeks ago when Chester called and asked us all to go cowboying with him on his cousin’s ranch.
Dad asked, “What is cowboying?”
Chester explained, “Cowboying is when you round up cattle and drive them to wherever you want them to go.”
Dad repeated, “Christina, Jackie, you guys want to go cowboying on horses on a ranch?”
I took the phone right out of Dad’s hand and shouted, “Can Neewa come?”
“Yes Neewa can come, if she can ride a horse?” Chester laughed.
“When? When?” I asked him.
Chester replied, “It depends on the weather. I’ll call you the night before. We won’t go in the rain or bad weather.”
Chester finally called yesterday afternoon, “Do you still want to go cowboying?”
“Yeah,” I told him.
Chester said, “Pick me up at four in the morning.”
I cried out, “Four in the morning! Wow, Okay we’ll see you at four.”
I shouted to Dad, “We are going cowboying tomorrow, the weather is supposed to be good.”
Dad replied, “Yeah tomorrow is good. I’ll call The Burns’s and ask if Jackie can stay over their house tonight.”
“Jackie, you okay with this?” Dad asked not completely convinced Jackie did not want to go cowboying.
“Yeah Dad, I’m not going cowboying, its barbaric,” She said again.
“So anyway Jackie listen, we picked up Chester’s at four, and we all arrived at the ranch before the sun came up. We met Chester’s cousin, Dave at his house and took his pick-up truck to the barn. Dave was surprised when Neewa jumped up into in the back of his pick-up.”
“Cute dog you got there, can she stare down a steer?” Dave asked.
I answered, “Neewa can do anything, just tell her once and she is good to go.”
Neewa was an instant hit with everyone.
“She loves to be petted and play fetch,” I told them as we drove down the dirt road, “She can do anything. Its as if she is human.”
“Right from the start Dad and Dave had an issue.”
Jackie sighs, “Oh boy, it figures, Dad What did you do?”
He doesn’t answer, just continues tinkering around the kitchen.
I continue my story, “We’re getting in the truck. Dad just walked away from our van and Dave asks, why did you lock your van?”
“Oh did I?” Dad answered surprised.
“I didn’t even realize I did? Where we come from you have to lock your car. I guess it’s a habit.” Dad shrugged.
Dad and I could tell Dave was insulted. He thought we didn’t trust him and that we were afraid someone from his ranch would take something from our van.
Dad confided in me, “I know there is nothing I can do to take back what I did. I feel terrible that Dave thinks I don’t trust him. Guess we started off on the wrong foot.”
Dad tried to explain again by saying, “Dave we just moved out of the city. I picked up the habit of locking the van. You have to lock it or someone will take it.”
Dave shrugged his shoulders, “Oh, is that right?”
Dad sipped on his bottle of water as we arrived at the barn. Two of Dave’s ranch hands were already saddling the horses and getting everything ready. They nodded to us.
We each had to check our own bridal, synch, and reins ourselves to be sure they were tight, Dave insisted.
He told us, “The heard roams government land all year long. They eat whatever they can find, mostly sagebrush, but some grasses and new plant shoots if it rains. But it’s not enough, so we bring them hay to add to their diet. Mostly, the cattle live off whatever they can find. If it were not for the stream running through our land, there would be nothing for them to eat, just more desert.
We have about a dozen fields of grass and hay that belong to the tribe. We sell that for cash and that money goes to the old ones who can’t work.”
“I got the gentlest horse Dave had, her name is Stork. Dad got a horse that likes to throw you off onto the ground. Its name is Mac.”
Dave said laughing under his breath, “Be ready to land on your feet when that one throws you off.”
Dad replied, “Yeah? Ok? I’ll be ready, I hope.”
“Next we rode out onto the desert. It was so quiet and the sun was just coming up. You should have seen it when the early morning light hit the mountains, they turned a brilliant ruby red.”
Chester gave us our coyboying instructions as we rode, “I will tell you guys where to stand. We will drive the cattle toward you. Don’t get off your horses or you will get trampled for sure. You guys will be like bumpers in bumper pool, guiding the cattle.”
He asks, “Did you ever play bumper pool?”
“Yes,” We both say.
“I play all the time,” he says. “At my friends house.”
Chester continues, “The cattle will turn away from you when they see you. Make sure they turn the right way. Just raise up your arm opposite the direction you want them to go, don’t worry, they spook easy.”
I looked at Jackie who is hanging on every word, “That was the extent of my cowboying instructions.”

Chapter 28 - Cattle Drive

“I’m not sure if they were speaking Shoshone, Piute, or Washoe, but no one spoke English as we headed out to the desert.
It felt like I was with Billy Crystal and Daniel Stern in the movie City Slickers. You should have seen it Jackie, cattle everywhere. I was on my horse the whole day. It feels like I’m still on that horse, my legs are killing me.”
“Yeah Christina, you smell like you’re still on that round-up. I hope you’re taking a shower,” Jackie wrinkles her nose.
“Yeah, right after I finish the story,” I warn.
“Neewa was running around the cattle like she knew how to round them up. She nipped at the cow’s tails to get them to move faster. Once when a cow stopped right in front of her, she looked the cow straight in the eye and barked. The cow turned and ran to escape her glare. If a cow turned in the wrong direction, Neewa circled around and brought it back to the heard.
Someone would give a command in Shoshone, Piute, or Washoe. Dad and I would look at each other with a blank stare. Chester translated only if it was something we needed to know.
Chester would yell, stay by that sage bush, or don’t move, or move to the left.
Dad and I learned a couple of Indian words, stop, go, and don’t move you diaboo’s.”
Dad excited, continues the story while I go take a shower.
“Jackie, we rounded up all the cattle on the desert. That took almost all day. It had to be after two in the afternoon before we stopped for a drink of water.
Then we drove the cattle down a long dirt road with fence on either side to a corral. That was the easy part cause all we had to do was stay behind them and keep moving.
Occasionally, a steer would break away, get through a broken part of the fence and run for the hills. One of the cowboys would have to go round up the cow and drive it back to the heard.”
Dad laughs, “Neewa ran off into some trees. It was the perfect place for her with a shimmering stream, shade from the sun, and plenty of water. She probably wanted to get a drink or go for a swim and cool off. I saw her chewing on the green grass on the bank.
At that moment, she started rolling around on the ground scratching her back. Dirt and dust rose all around her as she wriggled around. I didn’t know what she was doing.
We continued down the road with the cattle when she came back. As soon as she got close to me, I realized what had happen. She had been rolling in cow manure and was covered in it.”
“Oh my god you stink!” I yelled.
Returning from my shower I interrupt Dad, “I told Neewa, you smell so bad you are going to have to stay outside on her chain in one of your dens.
When we passed the next pond, I took her for a swim. We played fetch and she swam across the pond a few times, but that didn’t get all the smell off.”
Dad continues the story, “We finally arrived at two big corrals that were in the middle of this wide-open field. Somehow we were going to get all the cattle in side. Christina and I were assigned to guard the gate and we positioned ourselves twenty or thirty feet away. Our job was to guide the cattle into the corral and keep the one’s inside from coming back out, which is what they wanted to do.
The only way to do this was to yell and wave our arms in the air to spook them in the right direction. Sometimes just raising an arm would scare the cattle enough to keep them from running back out.
When Chester and Dave herded a whole bunch of cows in through the gate, the cows inside tried to escape. Again and again the cattle got spooked and ran in every direction. Sometimes they ran right at us, and then it was impossible to keep them all from escaping while driving still more cattle in through the same gate.
If you let one get by you, and it was your fault, the other cowboy’s gave you a look. That would be your signal to go and get the escapee and drive it back into the corral.”
Jackie’s eyes are wide open as she listens to every word, “Next we separated the calves from the cows and put them in a separate corral. The calves screamed when they were taken from their moms. Some of them were not even weaned yet. It was sad, cows were mooing for their young. I wanted to die. They tried to get back to each other, crying, and blaring in cow language. They kept running out of the corral and back to their moms, only to be separated again by one of us on horseback. That was the worst part. I don’t ever want to do that again, I cried.”
Dad jumps in, “Cattle trucks arrived just when we finished getting the cows and calves separated. The calves were in the smaller corral. They are staying on the ranch, and will be Dave’s heard next year. The rest of the cattle were loaded into the trucks.
But in order to get the cattle onto the trucks, they had to be chased through this chute that lead to the trailer. The chute is a four-foot wide corridor in the corral with fence on both sides. It has dropdown doors to control the number of cattle passing through. After that, they go up a ramp into the truck’s trailer.”
Dad added, “The truck drivers have to get the trailer door really close to the top of the chute. If not, the cows jump between the trailer and ramp to freedom. Several cows made the four-foot jump and ran to the other corral to be with their calves. They mooed and mooed until they were roped and dragged back to the chute by a cowboy.
Then it was done, finally they were all loaded and two trucks full of cattle headed for the auction.”
I continued the story, “At this point I’m want to go home. I feel like I’m going to collapse from emotional and physical exhaustion.
I rode Stork back to Dave’s barn, I took her saddle off, and put away her blanket, bridal, and all her stuff. She walked back to her stall and started eating oats. I went straight to the van.
Dad and I followed the trucks into town. On the way, I could hear the cows screaming and mooing for their calves. Their cries are still ringing in my ears.”
Dad chimes in as I pause to go get some water, “Today was auction day and the buyers and sellers were ready to get started. We followed the trucks to the cattle market right in town near the railroad. The auction is enormous with dozens of corrals full of cattle. Each rancher’s heard of cattle is put in a different corral where they are sold.
Sounds were coming from everywhere at the huge railroad yard. Railroad cars wheels squealed and train whistles blew. The auctioneer tested his mike getting ready to start the bidding. Cattle were mooing, cowboys yelling orders to each other, and hooves of cattle stomped up and down ramps.
Finally, all of Dave’s cattle were unloaded from trucks into one of the corrals.
The auctioneer went around to each heard yelling into his microphone for an opening bid.
Swiftly he began his chatter into the microphone, “Do I hear fifty cents a pound? Fifty? Fifty, give me fifty cents? Do I hear fifty? There ya go, I have fifty cents, do I hear fifty-five? Fifty-five? Fifty-five? Give me fifty-five cents.
The auctioneer walked from corral to corral and the bidding continued until all the cattle were sold to the highest bidder.
The auction was over, trains were loaded with cattle, and off to the slaughterhouse they went.
Dave went to the cashier and picked up his check, and we came home.”
“That was my cowboying experience. I’m going to remember this day for the rest of my life. I’ll probably never do it again, ever. I’m going to bed after a good soaking in a hot bathtub. You did save me some hot water? Didn’t you Jackie?”
Jackie looks over at me and says, “Christina you probably used it up when you took a shower before,” She returns to her TV show.
“Cool, sounds like you guys had a good time, I’m going to bed, Brice and I stayed up late last night, goodnight.” Jackie walks to her room.
I whisper to Dad, “My legs hurt pretty bad, my thighs are burning from holding onto that horse. It feels like they are going to hurt for a week. Tomorrow is Saturday and I’m staying in bed all day, so don’t wake me. I mean it. Don’t wake me up.”
“Did you have fun?” Dad asks.
“Yeah, I had fun, but it was so sad separating the calves from the cows. I cried Dad, they were calling each other, it was terrible,” I mope off to the bath.
Dad reminds me, “We are going to leave Neewa outside tonight even though it will be cold. She can sleep in one of her caves or dens or whatever they are and stay warm. I will feed her and give her water. Hopefully, she won’t smell so bad tomorrow. If she rolls around in the dirt a few times she’ll get most of the smell off, or else you’ll have to give her a bath tomorrow.”
“Yeah, sure, I’ll give her a bath tomorrow,” I answer.
I lay on my bed, reliving the whole experience of the day.
It was nice of Dave to take us out to dinner at the restaurant. The place was a few blocks from the train yard, downtown. As I walked the bright lights downtown flashed, Jack Pot, Jack Pot, alternating in yellow, red, and orange. One casino’s flashing lights depicted a twenty-foot neon cowboy with a cigar in his mouth and a fist full of dollars.
Jogging across the tracks, we put the bright lights behind us passing a movie theatre, bank, and a pawnshop.
We arrived, and walked into the restaurant probably built a hundred years ago. Along the left wall were the booths and across from them a long counter with green vinyl topped metal-rimed stools. Spinning several of them easily, I walk by and then collapsed into the vinyl bench seat with a squeak. Each booth was just big enough for two people on either side.
The twelve-foot high restaurant walls were green too, although a different shade. Or maybe they were just covered with a coat of grease from the fryers and grill. Fans hung down from the embossed tin ceiling painted white.
Behind the restaurant counter was all the action. One cook on the grill, another busy at the sandwich board, and yet one more chatting with the cute waitress that helps bring in the regular customers.
Conversations are plenty as I quietly listened to those around me. Charlie, seems to have lost most of his stake at the casino and doesn’t want to go back to the ranch. Randy is sitting at the counter after having drunk too much, and isn’t sure if he should go back to the Pioneer Bar for another Bud, or stay here and have another cup of Joe.
The waitress bounced from table to table trying to cover up any mistakes the cooks may have served up.
She politely smiled at each patron, “Is everything all right? Can I get you anything dear?”
Families were interspersed throughout the room. They’re traveling long distances and have stopped to eat and shake off the road.
Someone asked in a tired and road weary voice, “Is there a good motel nearby? Clean with plenty of hot water?”
I wouldn’t touch that one, the motels here are known for problems with their hot water supply. Well meaning locals suggest a variety of motels for the weary traveler.
Smiling the waitress asked enthusiastically, “What’ll you have sweetie?”
“Burger, fries, and a Coke please,” I looked up at her as she wrote on her pad of checks ready to hand in the next ticket to the cook.
During dinner Dave told his story, “I borrow money to buy and raise cattle just like any other rancher. The price of cattle has gone down, it could go down even more. If that happens I’ll get an even lower price than I got today. I have to sell my cattle now because there is no telling what the price is going to be tomorrow. I’m not going to make much money this year. But I can’t take a chance that the price will go down even more and then I’d lose money. So I have to sell the heard now. At least I will have enough money to raise another heard. I hope to get a better price next year.”
He continued, “I’m going to keep my calves and buy more with the money from the sale today. I’ll feed them all year and then sell them next year. If my bull is healthy, I’ll have a lot more caves in the spring. I’ll brand those and let them out into the desert.”
After I had enough to eat we were ready to leave, I said, “Good luck Dave.”
Chester said, “See you guys.”
Dave said, “See ya.”
Dave and Chester were staying at the restaurant to have some dessert and coffee. We were ready to go home. Dad and I walked back to the van.
Neewa was resting in the back seat and jumped up as we approached the van. She was glad to see us. But I was not so happy to smell her. The whole car stunk of manure.
Usually Neewa jumps all over me when she sees me. But because she smelled so bad, I didn’t let her near me. I told her to get in the back. Then I gave her the rest of my cheeseburger, which she gobbled down in under three seconds.
I held my nose, “Neewa you smell.”