Sunday, November 29, 2009

It Had Been a Long Time

I have lived in Spain for so long that I really feel more Spanish than American and I know our children don’t think of themselves as Americans. Between university and rejection of residence papers, after being here almost since birth, two of our daughters have moved back to the States. One now has blessed us with four grandchildren. She met her husband here at a fund-raising Burro-baseball game for our charity, ANIMO. He was a Marine based at Rota and the Americans sent up a bus-load to play a friendly game against Mojacar.
It was time to take a break and spend some time with the children and see something new. Coming from California, one of the privileged ones, or so they say, I thought the mid-west states would be very backward. I was so wrong. The people were gracious and friendly. The countryside was beautiful and the wildlife spectacular. What a change from southern Spain where the rivers are dry and the wildlife almost non-existent. We were also lucky because we hit Indian summer and our three weeks in the States was sunny and warm: not just the weather but also the people we met.
We had the good fortune to stay in the guest house of a friend of our children. It was next to the university and walking distance to the Old Town. Right next to the house was a river that ran through the city and there were parks everywhere. Lenox made great friends with an armadillo that lived under the neighbor’s house and with all the squirrels and birds. All the animals and birds seem bigger there. We took our grandchildren to the zoo to give our daughter a day off and we actually saw more wildlife just sitting on our patio than we did in the zoo.
Patsi, the woman whose house we stayed in, had a huge ranch just outside of town with four horses and lots of cows, all giving birth during our stay. I got to ride every day sometimes twice. My husband got to drive a four wheeler, a horse and a fourteen-wheeler which he drove to help bring in all the huge rolls of hay.
There is the ‘miracle mile’ with all the big shops and fast food but they have kept it all in one area. The houses in the town were all different, ranging from authentic log cabins, colonial and single storey brick or wood houses. They all had at least half an acre with an open area in the front, you couldn’t tell where one property started and the next one began, and a fenced back yard. All beautifully mowed, with a huge variety of trees and birds. Besides spending time with our grandchildren, which was a pleasure, we took in the sights. Lakes and rivers everywhere, we saw a parade for Veterans Day, Halloween was a treat, the food was fantastic and everything was relatively cheap.
Besides the escape from here and spending time with our children, for us the best part was the wildlife and riding everyday. I hadn’t ridden in about eight years I was a bit nervous at first but in a short time was galloping all over the countryside. I have always ridden bareback and that is how I rode. On the main farm you could just walk because of the prairie-dog holes but there was a lovely plowed ring for riding in and a forest that went all around the 180 acres with beautiful paths where you could see herds of deer, brown squirrels, owls and other wildlife. Nearby was a nursery with saplings in it, it was several acres and had a plowed road going all the way around it so you could trot or canter for ever. I had forgotten how happy riding makes you feel and the physical benefits you receive just by having a good time. Patsi, it turned out, was a roper so we went to several practice events and even got to ride some of her horses around just to keep them used to the atmosphere. In the arena we had to use saddles which I found very uncomfortable so will stick to bare-back. Every moment of every day was relaxing, interesting and fun.
It was a great holiday and I can’t wait to go back. It is all thanks to the organization of our children that made this trip possible. Daniel stayed home to take care of the animals and house while Jessica and Amber arranged our lovely accommodation and transport. Without their help we never could have made this trip and in the end it cost us less than staying here for three weeks. Thank you kids, we love you.
One of the interesting things that we noticed was in the grandchildren: they had all grown and matured so much. We noticed that the two school-age girls had lost a lot of their childish imagination in the arts. It is a shame that school tells you that grass is green and the sky is blue etc. because their drawings all looked the same, whereas before, they painted marvelous painting worthy of hanging in a gallery. The imagination on the story telling had increased even to lies but all in good fun. Jessica has been so lucky because she has been able to stay home to watch the change and growth in her children which nowadays is a privilege because most mothers have to work and miss out on a lot of changes both physical and developmental. We had so much fun playing and getting to know the new grandchildren.
The cows had to be counted every day and see if there were any new ones. As they were born they were given names in alphabetical order to try and keep them straight as to their age. They decided on using plants for names and I got to name three: Ivy, Hay, and Jalapeña. Lenox named one, Gooseberry. Patsi also had a mechanical bull and a big metal horse in the barn to practice as all good ropers do because sometimes you just can’t get outside to practice because of the weather or lack of people and animals to participate. At practice sessions all the cows are in a shoot wearing helmets to protect them and two horses back up on either side. The header, one who ropes the head and pulls the cow to the left, and the heeler who is a second behind and catches the feet as the header swings it around to the left and the steer kicks up its hind legs so the heeler can rope them. Then they all run to the far corner and into the shoot again. It isn’t a sport I see myself doing but it was lots of fun.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Strange Birds

Kalinska was a small Egyptian owl that fell on to a Russian cargo ship in the middle of the Suez Canal. How, no one knows. The sailors fed her and took care of her until they docked in Garrucha, the fishing village next to Mojácar. The sailors gave her to a Russian girl that lived in town. Kalinska lived in her room and ate chicken livers and hearts. The owl had no idea how to clean herself so was always covered in blood and sticky gore. The Russian girl would wash Kalinska with people shampoo after every meal and then dry her with a blow dryer. She got tired of this routine very soon. Knowing that we took in animals of all sorts, she brought it to us to care for. We had a lovely big aviary for her and every day we fed her by hand the liver and hearts that made up her diet. The butcher was so intrigued that he gave them to us for free. She still never learned to clean herself and all the washing and drying of her feathers had removed all the natural oils that she needed for flying and her health in general. What we thought was a fat healthy owl turned out to be a thin ugly filthy little thing. We didn’t wash her with the hopes that the natural oils would return and that she would learn to clean her own feathers. She never did learn to clean herself so she always looked rather mangy. She was very friendly and would eat out of your hand and we would wipe her feathers down from time to time. There was no way she could ever be returned to the wild and even if she could where would we let her go? So she stayed with us.
Another strange bird that arrived at our house arrived in the bra of a woman on horse-back. Her dogs had found it while she was out riding and it had a broken wing. She knew the only place she could take it to be cared for was to us. It was a hawk. We nursed her back to health and her wing healed. She flew a little more each day until one day she was ready to return to the wild. We kept food out for her for a while until she got the hang of living in the wild. She did very well and I hope went on to have a family. What I couldn’t understand was how that woman brought her all the way here in her bra because the hawk had one heck of a bite and a very sharp beak. The strangest thing about this story was our cat, Mouse, he was not a hunter and had never brought home his prey to show us, unlike Cookie who was a hunter and brought in everything from rabbits to snakes and rats. I don’t like it when cats kill just to play with the animal but Cookie ate every last bit so I figured it was nature at work. From the day we got the hawk, our cat Mouse took to bringing us a field mouse he had just caught. Apparently, for our guest to eat. This went on every day while we had the hawk until the day the hawk left and Mouse never hunted again. It was great for us because I hate feeding animals that eat other animals but I know it is nature’s way.