Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Trial By Fire

Smokey and I went out eagle watching again today. Well, I went out eagle watching. Smokey was not so interested, preferring to provide constant reminders that we really should be headed back to the barn.

I shot a brief video. Skip to about 1:30.

Some folks had set up an impromptu firing range on their property just off the levee. We had passed them earlier, so I had a pretty good idea what was coming. Poor old Smokey was more startled than anything, but had no desire to hang around. When I watched the video afterward, I must confess that I got a good laugh out of watching the old boys ears going into "high speed radar" mode.

I guess Cowboy Action Shooting may not be for us.

Both of my readers may be tired of my posts about the eagles, but it's my blog, and I doubt that I will ever tire of them. Click to enlarge.

Six in one tree. How cool is that?

Monday, December 27, 2010

Predator on the Trail

In the early afternoon of Christmas Eve, with Mrs. BR out for last minute shopping, and DN3 helping her Grandmother bake pies, I concluded that there could be no better way to spend the afternoon that a ride out along the Puyallup River levee. Things were quiet and uneventful until Smokey pulled up to a stop, head high, and ears forward. I scanned the trail ahead, and peered into the brush trying to discern the source of his concern. Seeing nothing obvious, I prodded my trusty steed forward.

He would have none of it, choosing rather to whirl and attempt to bolt in the other direction. With some pressure on the reins, and a well applied spur, I reminded him who was in charge of steering. Or so I thought. More whirling and twirling. Realizing that I would have none of it, he resorted to backing down the trail. To correct this, I turned him 360 degrees.

Finally I was able to get some forward momentum. The horse moved slowly, head craning toward the source of his fear. When, suddenly, something leapt out of the brush at us. Thinking quickly, I reached for the Iphone, and snapped a picture of the ferocious beast.

Yep, that's a log. Pretty scary isn't it? I took him out again today, and returned to the scene of Friday's attack. He walked past it without notice. I will never completely understand this horse.

I counted 36 eagles in a two mile stretch of the river today. I snapped this shot of one that was no more than 20 feet above us.

I'm going to borrow my father's Nikon, and take a hike out there, so that I can get better photos of these majestic birds.

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Night Before Christmas

I hope this post finds each of you well and happy, in your own ways. Be you Christian or otherwise, I would like to wish all of you a Merry Christmas.

I haven't had much to post about this month. Or time for that matter. I've worked many a long hour this month. That isn't a complaint, as I have a great job at an amazing company. I started vacation Wednesday afternoon, through the end of this year, so time for a little R&R. I rode the horse yesterday, the third time this month, and probably only the fifth or sixth time that I had even laid eyes on him.

I seem to be suffering an inexplicable bout of the humbugs this year. The Christmas season has always been one of my favorite times of the year. I have fond memories of Christmas from my childhood, and while our three daughters were growing up. I am a Christian, but have always bought into the Santa Claus myth, for the symbol of hope that he represents. The thought St. Nick always brought hope and excitement to a young BR, and certainly to my own children. None of them were devastated when the truth was learned, and they even helped to perpetuate the belief for their younger siblings. Of course, now that our youngest is 16, the Santa Claus aspect is no longer part of the picture.

This past summer, two of our daughters, and one dog, moved out, ready to make their own way in the world. The house is much quieter these days. That comes as a mixed blessing, and perhaps plays into my lack of Christmas spirit. I haven't spent a great deal of time analyzing it, and don't plan to, but I do hope this to be a one off year.

From the ages of 4 thru 8, I lived with my paternal Grandparents, who were the two greatest people I have had the privilege of knowing. When the Christmas decorations were brought out each year, a book which contained an illustrated version of Clement Clark Moore (or Henry Livingston, but that's a story for another day) came out with them. To this day, I can remember the texture of the book, and the illustrations contained within. And the way the story made me feel when my Grandmother would read it to me. It is the only poem that I can recite from memory.

So without further babbling on my part:

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,

In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,

While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;

And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,

Had just settled down for a long winter's nap,

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,

I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.

Away to the window I flew like a flash,

Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow

Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,

When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,

But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,

I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,

And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;

"Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!

On, Comet! on Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!

To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!

Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,

When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,

So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,

With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof

The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.

As I drew in my head, and was turning around,

Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,

And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;

A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,

And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.

His eyes -- how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!

His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!

His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,

And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,

And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;

He had a broad face and a little round belly,

That shook, when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,

And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;

A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,

Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,

And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,

And laying his finger aside of his nose,

And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,

And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.

But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,

"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night."

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Monday, December 13, 2010

Pineapple Express Update

We dodged the bullet here in my little town. Other folks in the region weren't so lucky.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Pineapple Express Has Arrived

The Pacific Northwest gets hit with the "Pineapple Express" about every other year. This results in a deluge of rain, and warm weather. It was 59F at 8am this morning. This results in the the snow level increasing to 7000ft. The problem lies in the fact that the rain melts the snow below this level, causing the threat of flooding for the multitude of rivers in Western Washington.

Two years ago, our town was evacuated. It's surprising how quickly 95% of your possessions can be relegated to the category of "it's just stuff", and left behind. Evacuating with two Alaskan Malamutes, a fat cat, and half a dozen horses adds to the complexity. But, with help, we managed. The town didn't flood, but only for the Grace of God.

I don't think the current frog strangler washing through the area is as bad as Jan. 2009, but one never knows what Mother Nature has in store for us.

So far, levels have stayed below predicted values. I'm keeping my fingers crossed, but not burying my head.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Horses and Wildlife

In the comment thread of the previous post, Kris made the statement "Can't imagine the closeness you must experience on a horse."

That comment highlights something that I've noticed while riding horseback. I've experienced more, and closer, encounters with wildlife traveling on a horse, as opposed to hiking on foot. Deer, elk, and black bears seem to react differently to the horses . I've stared a blacktail deer down on the trail not 20 feet in front, while we both waited for the other to get off the trail. I watched a young bull elk parallel us on the trail. When riding in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness last September, we got closer to Mule Deer does and fawns than I would have ever imagined. Rather than getting spooked and hightailing it out of there, they would just watch us pass by. I did try to take several photos, but was rather amazed at how well they blend into there surroundings, as few off the photos turned out very well.

The black bear encounter was a bit unique. My nephew and I were riding on a logging road. Coming around a bend, we spotted a bear in the road, about 50 yds away. It was just watching us. As black bears can run very fast for a short distances, we stopped, dismounted, and unholstered our sidearms. After a few moments, the bear turned and ambled off the road. We waited a bit, and chose to walk past the area, leading the horses on a foot. Not two minutes past this sighting, we found another bear walking towards us. It initially showed no sign of stopping, which, I'm here to tell you, can get the adrenalin running. Suddenly he stopped, as if just noticing us, and twirling in a cloud of dust jumped off the trail. Encounter over.

Later on we were kicking ourselves for not getting photos. However, the cameras in our saddle bags were not in the forefront of our minds at the time.

Do wild animals react differently to the presence of horses than they do to lone humans? Or is it my imagination? Despite the fact that two legged varmints are still present, my experience, albeit it limited, leads to believe it is the former.

The other noteworthy fact is the reaction of my horse. He has never batted an eye during any of these encounters. This is the same horse that will jump sideways 10 feet sideways at the sight of a blue tarp or orange traffic cone. But he's not afraid of a bear? Go figure.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Eagles are Landing

"If I lay really still, maybe he won't see me."

Today's weather was cool, crisp, and rain free. Tired of arena work, I took Smokey out on a solo ride along the Puyallup River levee. The ride was remarkable only in that it was unremarkable, so I won't bore you with the details.

Each year around this time, eagles descend upon the rivers of Western Washington to feed upon the remains of spawned out salmon. Some folks pay money to take river trips to view these majestic creatures. I need merely ride along the river for this privilege.

One of the first arrivals was roosting in a tree above the trail this afternoon. The picture isn't that great, as I was armed with only the cell phone camera.

I'll take a better camera camera out when more of them are in town.