Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Hunting is Good

Well, Brad left on Friday morning to head back into the Bob Marshall Wilderness to elk hunt with his brother and his brother's buddy. And be still my heart, last night my phone rang, and it was my sweetie! He got his elk, a nice 5 x 6 bull that will look lovely in my freezer!!! Yeah!!!

I was really worried about this trip for a couple of reasons. Number 1, the guys go 24 miles back on horseback. No quick trips out if someone gets hurt, or something happens to one of the ponies. Reason the second, this was our horse Sam's first trip out since seriously injuring his back leg in February. As usual, I worried for no reason (the more you read here, the more you will discover that worry seems to be my number one sport. Thank all that is holy that it's not an Olympic event.), and all is well. Sam did great, no swelling, no limping, no need for Bute (horsey tylenol). And I have a nice big elk to put in the freezer and chomp away on during the winter.

Yes, we are a meat loving family. And Brad and Sara both hunt, big game as well as birds. So if hunting offends you, this is not a site you're going to want to bookmark, 'mkay? This is the way this family in Montana lives. I will not post photos of hunted animals here, simply because I don't find them appealing to look at. But I will crow to the rooftops my family's success in the field. Cuz the less money I have to spend at the grocery store, the better. And let's be honest, how many 21 year old girls still want to hang out with their dad, much less go stalking around the woods with them?

It's interesting to note how much money hunters add to a state's economy. Last year alone, in just the state of Montana, hunters contributed nearly $15 million dollars to the state's revenue. This is money that was spent on hunting licenses and tags (money that goes back into the Fish and Game service, which helps many conservation projects, as well as fighting fires, catching poachers, and doing all sorts of good things), hotel rooms, meals, groceries, gas, hunting and camping gear, etc, etc. This does not include fees spent for fishing. That figure is just for hunters. And let's talk about how much money hunters spend each year just on conservation efforts. I don't know a hunter who does not support the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants Forever, or some other group who does nothing but wildlife conservation work. Hmm, these folks must be good people.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying all hunters are saints with halos and rifles (or shotguns, or bows). Some of them are stupid idiots, who should not be allowed to play with a nerf gun, much less a real one. But those people represent the very small minority. Unfortunately, they're the ones who get all the press. You don't hear alot about the guy who donates his processed elk to the local food bank, or the neighbor who brings you half a deer because he has plenty, and he knows you could use some extra meat. You don't hear about the guy who tracked an injured white tail deer for three days, and tagged the animal when he found it, even though the weather had turned, and the meat was totally spoiled. He tagged it because he shot it, and claiming it was the right thing to do.

Most hunters are good people who hunt for the love of the wildlife. More times than not, Brad and Sara come home empty handed, and totally exhilerated. Watching two bull elk wrangle about who gets the girls, seeing literally hundreds of ducks get up off a river and fly at the same moment, or just spending the day on horseback, talking, laughing, and reconnecting. We just recently finished building four ponds on the bottom of our property for duck, geese, and pheasants. It's going to be so much fun watching baby ducks and geese learn to paddle around next spring. I will be posting photos of that!

And hunting fills the freezer. Between the elk, the pigs (who have a date with the butcher October 1st, thank all that is holy), and the quarter beef we are buying, we will eat well this winter, and not have to spend a ton of money on overpriced, chemical filled meat at the grocery store. And yes, there will be new pigs in the spring, and perhaps some chickens if we can get a good coop built (living in the country on 40 acres means coyotes and foxes, and hawks, and eagles. They seem to like chicken as much as I do.) And hopefully another beef in the freezer. Brad and I are determined to raise all of our own meat from now on. It just tastes so much better. And then there's the fact that we have 40 acres and five horses. We seem to have a little bit of room.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Crazy Ride

Well, we discovered the reason for the neighbor's dogs chasing the horses and barking at 3 am the other night. Their beautiful daughter, 16 years old, was in the hospital in labor with her son. Yes, I knew she was pregnant. Mother and child are doing well, home now, grandparents are happy, everyone has had a bit of sleep.

This brings back some memories for me. See, my beautiful daughter Sara was born when I was 17. I remember being the only pregnant girl in my high school. I remember thinking this couldn't be that difficult. Yes, I was that naive. I was on the debate team (boy did that raise some eyebrows in Kansas!), I graduated and got my diploma. I did not go to prom, because diapers were fricking expensive. I was so blessed to be loved and supported by my family. And my awesome boyfriend, Brad, stuck by me 100%. Yes, the same Brad that pulled my smelly dog out of the septic tank Sunday. We made it. 23 years this Sept 28th we've been together.

It was difficult. It's still difficult. Sara is 21 now, and I can't believe we all survived this crazy ride. And we're still on the ride. I'm getting the sneaking suspicion this ride never ends.

Having a child while you are a teenager sucks. I mean, the baby is wonderful. I wouldn't trade Sara for anything in the world. But not being able to do the things other kids my age were doing sucked. No college, no travel, no parties (although, considering how many teenagers die from drug and alcohol overdoses, car accidents, or just general inebriated stupidity, I'm not sure I missed much there). My life revolved around that little person. And you know what? My life still revolves around her. She's in college, but still living at home. And I'm okay with that, but for the love of heaven, I still lay awake waiting for her to come home. And I still have to remind her to pick up her shoes, socks, books, etc etc etc.

My heart goes out to my neighbor's daughter. I know exactly how she's feeling right now. She's excited, overjoyed, and scared out of her freaking mind. She has the support of her family. But the father?? Can't be bothered. Yes, I have hugged my husband repeatedly. I got lucky, and I know it. And I've been hugging that teenager still hiding in me, wondering if her life will ever be the same again. No, it's never been the same. It's been better, an exciting ride that takes my breath away with joy, terror, frustration, silliness, and pride. I'm glad I got on the ride, I just wish I'd waited in line a little longer.

So for any teenagers out there thinking pregnancy won't happen to you? Yes, it sure as hell will. And to the parents who think their child isn't out having sex (unprotected or otherwise)? Talk to your kids. Be honest, even thought it's embarrassing. Sara and I have always had an open dialogue about sex and protecting herself. I've offered to buy condoms, drive her to the clinic to get on the pill, whatever she wants. Because let's face it, the worst thing that can happen to a kid having sex? Not getting pregnant, or getting someone pregnant. The worst thing that can happen to your child is contracting an incurable disease. Dying, because their hormones had them acting like bunnies. Take it from a teenage mother who was too embarrassed to talk to her mom, and who's mom was too embarrassed (and thinking her daughter wouldn't have sex) to talk to her. I got so lucky, healthy baby, amazing husband. But too many kids didn't get that lucky, and won't. All because society thinks if we just bury our heads in the sand, the problem won't happen, or will just go away. I'm living proof, and so is my neighbor's daughter, that it just keeps happening.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Oh Shit

The title pretty much sums up my weekend. There was animal related drama all the time. From escaping cows (yes, I have cows now. Pregnant cows even. Pray for them, cuz if they get out again, they are going to the butcher), to barn cats in the house, on the kitchen counter, to the neighbors eighty bazillion dogs (no, I'm not exaggerating) barking at 3 am right outside my bedroom while chasing the neighbors thirty bazillion horses, who are very loud running at 3 am.

But the worst animal drama involved my beloved Penny. She's fine now, but I have several more grey hairs than I had yesterday morning. Brad was working on our septic system, replacing a pipe that had broken. He'd had the ditch open all weekend. When we came home from Missoula to find Prim the barn cat on the kitchen counter, we decided that closing her entry point (the window the swamp cooler sits in) was a good idea.

So Brad is emptying the swamp cooler, and I'm goofing around with the dogs, looking at my sunflower garden, and just putzing. I hear splashing. We do not have a pool. Keon is right behind me, so I start looking for Penny, because normally she does not like to get in the water, much less splash as energetically as I was hearing. Plus, there is no standing water for her to get into. I head over to the ditch Brad has open, thinking maybe she is goofing in the sewer water. No Penny. It's then that I realize not only has Brad opened a ditch, HE'S TAKEN THE COVER OFF THE SEPTIC TANK, AND PENNY HAS FALLEN IN!!!!!!!

My heart stopped. All I could do was fall to my knees and scream for Brad. Thank all that is holy that Penny had gotten one leg caught on a wire, and had not fallen all the way in the septic tank. She's looking at me with her big brown eyes, and I'm freaking out. Then Brad was there, grabbed her leg, and hauled her out. She was smelly (oh heavens, she was rank!), but unhurt.

All I could do was put my head on the ground and try to breath. Brad wasn't in much better shape, the poor man was white as a ghost. The cover immediately went back on the septic tank, and Penny went in the house for two very thorough baths. She smells like flowers now, thank you very much.

I love Penny dog more than is natural. I saved her from a hellish start in her life, rescued her from an abusive situation (verbal as well as physical. I hates people.), and she has repaid me a thousand times over with unconditional, unwavering love. She is my shadow, my velcro dog. She sleeps with me when Brad is not home, and cuddles with me on the couch when I'm watching TV. Her warm weight beside me is better than any sedative known to womankind. The only time I am not foremost in her heart is when it is bird season. And, as she is after all a bird dog, I do not begrudge being second in her heart three months out of the year. This was not Penny's first brush with disaster. She has been stitched up by my next door neighbor (a surgical nurse), our vet, and even Brad. She was lost for two days when a thunderstorm scared the holy crap out of her. I was out of my mind for those two days. The joy and relief I felt when she found her way home was unbelievable. Penny also has epilepsy, although we have been fortunate to be able to control her seizures with diet, rather than put her on medication.

I'm glad the weekend is over. I'm so glad my girl is safe and sound. And you can bet your bippy that Brad will be making sure the septic tank cover is ALWAYS on. We do learn from our close calls. Go hug your dog, cat, hamster, or whoever makes your life more bearable. Shit happens fast.