Saturday, February 27, 2010

Scared Rabbit

For a few days there, I just felt like a scared rabbit. This place is so different from everything that I am use to, the landscape, the people (and lack of them), and the weather. I was nervous driving to town even. I checked out the library, looks like I will have to buy books at the grocery store or online. I have also made a few trips to Albertson's. I've noticed the customers wear camouflage a lot, as daily wear, not just for shooting elk. Getting out of the house helped a bit, but I don't know how I will fit in here. There was a very large quilting store in town, maybe it is time to learn how to do that and make some new friends. Every day I see pronghorn in different fields, and it is nice to live in a place wild enough to support them. Cowboy hates them though, not only because they taste bad, but they kept eating his seedling trees until he called Fish and Game and told them he would shoot them unless they did something about it. Fish and Game put up a nice fence around the baby trees for him. I think pronghorn are beautiful, and will post a pic here eventually, I usually see them while driving around 60 mph down a country highway and can't stop.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Isolation and Some Moose Burger

Look at all those dead animals in the freezer, elk, catfish, pig, moose, and of course some deer.

I've been having difficulty keeping an internet connection long enough to write anything, and today's snow doesn't help. A few days ago, I had a touch of cabin fever. I was feeding the horses and I just collapsed into a hay bale crying with the pitch fork still in my hand as one of the barn cats rubbed against my legs hoping I would feed it too. This old country song came into my head, one I haven't heard for years that came out in 1995. It is John Berry's "I think about it all the time", click here to hear it. I didn't know why I was crying or why that song was in my head until I thought about it later. Fifteen years ago my dad got a full time physics professor job in El Paso, TX, and he made us move there from Dallas where he had three part time jobs around the metroplex. I was in 9th grade and a cheerleader at my school in Dallas, so it really sucked to move. The summer before school started I would shut myself in my room and listen to the country radio station since we only got Spanish channels on TV. I would cry into my pillow with my cat Tigger by my side, and I'm sure I heard that song a lot.

Here fifteen years later, I feel just as isolated in this new place. It is a big change. I move around a lot for seasonal biology work, but when I get to new places, I always have new instant friends who think just like me and just moved too. We cook up a dinner of tofu and quinoa for dinner, and bond over all the birds we've seen. Here, I'm in this whole new cowboy world, with people who have lived here for years...that is when I see people. Usually I just see Cowboy's roommates who I drink with and fix dinner with. Last night I had Southern Comfort and Pepsi with Aaron, and he ate my beans and rice. We found a brownie mix that expired last August...2008, and didn't die from eating it. The other night me and Rob drank several beers, and he was open minded to my liberal ideas about not shooting predators like coyotes.

Kari who works with Cowboy came over last night and took me to town for a few hours, I haven't been out of this grassy chunk of land since last Sunday, so that was nice. I've been bonding with the horses, and they have all warmed up to me except Alice who usually keeps her distance. Yesterday, all I had to do was walk out of the house in Cowboy's snow boots and huge coat, and the one I call Big Brown (Teego) came running. They were on the other side of the 20 acres even. He came at a full gallop to the barn, not being one to want to miss dinner. The other three casually walked my way, then waited patiently as Big Brown took the first mouthfuls of hay. I'm socializing with horses, it is kind of cool. Hopefully they will get to know me well and let me ride them in spring.

Tonight, I will try my hand at fixing up some Moose Burger. I put it in the fridge to defrost last night. Moose meatballs and spaghetti maybe. Today's huge accomplishment was setting up the DVD player to the satellite system, not an easy task. Finally I can do my Zumba workout DVDs.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Ranger's Cold Day

Yesterday was just a day to relax. I got up around 5am and fed the horses for Cowboy who is out of town training for his job, taking apart diesel engines and stuff like that. I'm not quit use to getting up so early, so fell asleep several times throughout the day. There was this horrible smell coming from the kitchen, it was the large crock pot. I opened it and almost threw up at the rotten smell of some kind of ham that has been sitting there for a while. After cleaning that up as well as the clutter sitting around the kitchen, I went outside to take pictures of all the animals around here on these twenty some acres.

I let Ranger out early in the morning, thinking he would come back inside in about an hour. He preferred to stay out all day than to walk past me inside the house. He is not what you would call an Alpha dog, but more of a huge baby scared of everyone and everything. I tried to get him inside all day with chunks of roast beef laid out in a trail, leaving the door open with a boot, and even trying to just grab him and pull him in. He stayed out till late at night when his owner came home, even then resisting his desire to come inside. The roommate was eating dinner and his dog was staring inside the dining room window at him whimpering. Ranger finally came in after that, hungry and thirsty.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Animal Photos -- 4 Horses, 3 Dogs, and 2 Cats

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Chewy (on right) and Stinky (on left)


Mama Cat

Skittle (on left)

Big Brown

Learning How to Drive Standard

A few men have tried to teach me how to drive standard, Dad was the first. He bought me an old Bronco when I was 17 and after my panic on trying to drive it with the standard, he gave me a new automatic Nissan Sentra that was mom's and bought her a minivan. When I was in Germany, my ex was frustrated that I couldn't drive standard, because German's don't drive automatics. He tried teaching me, and it ended in a mix of German and rapid Kurdish cursing when I almost drove into this big pit. His uncle was just going to give me a crappy car to drive around, but ended up giving me his BMW because out of the dozens of cars that he had, it was the only automatic. I was nervous driving such an expensive car in a foreign land, not knowing what street signs meant. I went down a wrong way on a one way street and some German guy was honking at me crazy and yelling at me. I just apologized for being American and went on my way.

Yesterday Cowboy pulled over on one of the millions of gravel roads out here in Wyoming that seem to lead to nowhere. Told me it was my turn to drive. I climbed up on his side of the large diesel Dodge a little nervous, but there wasn't anything to hit really. He smoked more cigarettes than normal I noticed, one right after the other in fact as I drove around. First I learned where the gears were, it is a little hard to remember when driving, sometimes I would forget which gear I was in already even. He kept reminding me to shift my gears with a calm "I think you need to shift now." He calls the gas pedal the throttle and I kept forgetting what a throttle was as he told me with a slightly elevated voice to take my foot off of it when I switched gears every few minutes. My hands were so sweaty, I kept wiping them on my jeans. I had to turn off the heater, I was pretty hot and nervous, like I was driving on ice. Then I decided to stop to try the low gears again, but I made the mistake of stopping on a large hill. The truck slid back down backwards as he was sternly telling me to let off the clutch as I pressed down on the throttle, his cigarette in hand. After I managed to get the truck up to 6th gear again a little later, he told me that the gravel roads were just like ice and I should be careful. Hands got sweaty again as I shifted down a gear to not go so fast.

Then there was the black fluffy cow right in the middle of the road, it was just staring at me as my truck sped towards it. I forgot how to brake and panicked. It took a little while as Cowboy reminded me how, and I stopped in time. The cow walked off the road slowly, and Cowboy said "The worst that could of happened is that you would of hit it, then we would have prime rib tonight." Right after the cow, there was this herd of pronghorn standing next to the road, and I didn't know if they were going to run in front of me or what. Cowboy said they were cockroaches and it would be fine if I hit them. They never moved though as I crept by them. After that, I was worn out from the stress, and Cowboy took over driving again. I didn't think I could drive in the city just yet. He drove me out to some of the coal mines to show them to me.

After some grocery shopping, I fixed up some ribs, potatoes, corn bread, salad and cookies for Cowboy and his roommate. They devoured it all quickly, the corn bread was first to go with much enthusiasm. I went out after and fed the four horses under Cowboy's supervision while he was fixing the battery on his big work truck that the company Cat gave him. I grabbed large piles of hay from around a big bale with a pitch fork, unwrapping it like a cinnamon roll. I call the greedy horse big brown, he belongs to Cowboy's uncle. He does that horse nostril blowing thing at me, but lets me pet him.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Montana Visit

Cowboy has to go to a training in Casper all next week and he wants me to go, so yesterday we went to Montana to drop off his dogs with his parents. We left early and the roads were all iced over, I was glad he was driving. He was going 80 the whole way, and pointed to spots were his truck has spun out before and he almost died. Pointed out other spots where he saw other cars spin out and go off bridges. The seat belt alarm kept beeping at us.

I think Wyoming is teaching me that I can't control everything.

We stopped in Buffalo for McDonald's for breakfast. The city had a solid block of ice on every street. I told him I haven't eaten McDonald's since I was in junior high. One of his dogs kept putting his short little legs over the seat and licking his face for a bite of hash browns, the other dog didn't care about the food at all.

The drive was beautiful as we passed the Bighorn Mountains that sat below a heavy snow cloud on our left. We also drove past the battlefield of Custer's last stand at Little Bighorn, which is a river. Cowboy pointed to a huge stone on top of a snow covered hill where Custer was buried before they shipped him back to the east to his wife. He said that the native camp was 3 miles long and one mile wide when Custer came, and that he was a fool for even trying to fight those many people.

We wandered around a Big R store in Billings, MT that had everything a cowboy could dream of owning. There were several heads of animals on the walls of the large warehouse like box store, and we looked at camping gear, guns, and knifes. I ended up buying a good pair of gloves to keep my fingers from falling off in the cold. His Dad came and he took the dogs home, which is about 2 hours away. We went to a few other places in the big city, and had a nice dinner before coming back to Gillette. Cowboy washed his truck, and it is now a pretty blue instead of a solid brown.

In Wyoming

I made it to Wyoming a couple of days ago. I'm getting Internet from the neighbor's house which looks like it a good mile away, but these grasslands are so flat that I still get the signal. The sun is glistening off the snow in the front yard, and the only thing I can see is grass and the neighbor. There are four horses and twenty acres out back. The house is very cute and decorated with antlers and horse pictures. The dogs love me, and their short little legs are adorable.

When I came in to Wyoming, the roads were beautifully dry. I didn't have any problems till I was in Douglas, WY. Apparently the cities don't de-ice the roads the way the state does the highways. This southern girl slipped all over their streets until I reached a sign that said "Entering state maintained road", where the ice suddenly disappeared. All the coal mines are off that road, so they always keep it clear for ambulance access needed to keep the mines open everyday of the year non-stop. It was getting dark and the vast nothingness was pitch black in the dark, all I could see was the road, the train with hundreds of coal cars, and the occasional truck.

I was speeding across the grassland when it started to snow. I wasn't worried about ice yet, so didn't mind the snow until I couldn't see the lines on the road anymore, or the road either really. The only thing keeping me on it was these green posts with reflectors. I could feel myself getting hot with fear, so turned off the heater and started breathing deeply to keep myself calm. What was this alien landscape? I stiffened over my steering wheel straining to see through the snow falling to the white fluffy road. I turned on my brights, but then I could only see glowing snowflakes, so turned those off. I tried calling cowboy to come pick me up, but there wasn't any phone signal. So I just kept driving till it got clear out again.

I passed a rest stop, and almost stopped to call cowboy on the pay phone, but the road looked great. So I kept going, and then I ran into even more snow. I stiffened up again worrying about keeping my small car on the road, wherever the road was. A semi-truck came up from behind me, and it was annoyed that I was only going 40mph with my southern city slicker tires. It passed me at around 60 mph and I couldn't see for several seconds as snow flurried around me in a complete white out. Somehow I made it to Gillette, looking at my GPS every few minutes to help count down the miles and give me hope.

After I got there, Cowboy and his best friend needed some beer, so we all got in the truck. I struggled to pull the middle seat belt out, and best friend was all "Why you want to wear that anyway?" Neither of them had seat belts on. Best friend opened another beer in the truck and asked me if I wanted one, I told him I was good. He told me how he broke his back after his friend's truck rolled and he flew out the window, and was grateful to not have been wearing a seat belt. As a former EMT-B who has seen accidents, all I could think was that a seat belt might have prevented the whole back breaking thing, but what did I know. I asked what happened to the others in the truck, and he said they were all fine (because they were strapped down). He added some interesting and wild stories about some horse sale up north that is a huge cowboy party, they both said I should come this year. I was in Wyoming.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

No Need to Buy Anything

Feeling somewhat stressed with my childhood, high school, and college memories spread out all over my room. I really don't want to look at any of them, just organizing them to put in my parent's basement. I will just take some clothes, camping gear, and my favorite cooking pans to Wyoming with me.

Everyone wants to hang out with me before I leave Albuquerque, I spent yesterday with my sister. She insisted that we go out to eat at one of those chain restaurants, so I did if for her. I hate eating out these days after living in hotels for so long and getting fat at places like Chilies for the last couple of years. We then stumbled over to the mall after our margaritas, since I drove, she allowed her self a few drinks, she never drinks. I pushed her baby in his stroller across the parking lot. We walked into Dillard's and she managed to spend $300 in a few minutes just inside the door while I almost fell asleep in a chair along with the sleeping baby. Then I couldn't get her out of this shoe store in the mall that was blaring loud music, with cheap clothes and shoes. She was buying shoes like crazy, but I steered her away from these multicolored plastic ones (see pic) and a another pair that had a plastic mold of a gun for a heel. How are we related? I found a pair of boots that looked somewhat classy, and she bought them along with a lot of other stuff for a few hundred. I chased the baby around the stores while she tried stuff on, then bought it all. It was so funny when she wasn't tipsy anymore and she realized she spent around $600 in an hour. She regretted the shoes a little. Good sister fun.

Today was non-stop organizing and packing, along with some errands across the city with mom. I'm tired.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Road Trip toTaos, NM

I looked down hundreds of feet, leaning over the bridge, into the the Rio Grande river just west of Taos, NM. The rushing water was the most beautiful shade of green in the deep brown gorge. Standing in the middle of such large open space made me feel vulnerable and small, especially when large trucks went over the bridge causing it to shake. A misstep or the failure in the engineering of that rusted bridge would have sent me plummeting to my death on the wet rocks below, a weird thing for me to think of when I was standing right over the deepest part.

I went on a road trip today with my Dad and twelve year old niece who is currently hopping around on purple spray painted crutches with her third broken foot. We stopped later at a local pizza place that claimed to be the best in town, where we colored the large white paper on our table while we waited. I drew a picture of me in a cowboy hat, hearts, flowers, and my niece's poor fish smothering in a bowl of green water with a little message of the fish begging her to clean it. She glared at me from across the table on that picture. Behind her I could see the guy rolling out pizza dough in the kitchen, his strong exaggerated movements flowing well with the Bob Marley music on the radio.

Dad wanted me to look at the cute little art shops in town, because he knows I like doing that sort of thing, but I was feeling very stingy and not wanting to spend any money. So I didn't want to look at stuff I would want to buy. My niece already got my emergency money out of me at the gorge for a necklace that a local artist was selling in the parking lot, I avoided the tables and their desperate eyes, but she didn't. I always have cash in my purse in case my debit card won't's been known to happen when I have just run out of money in between paychecks and I will have just eaten dinner or something. For years now, if I like something, I just buy it. Shoes, clothes, books, an expensive dinner, or artwork. My sister's kids hit me up for everything, from face wash to new clothes. Now though, walking away from this job that had all the extra money laying around, I don't want to spend anything. I feel like I have to pinch every penny, it is kind of a scary feeling.

We headed off to the Vietnam Memorial near the Angel Fire ski resort instead because Dad wanted to see it again. It was an interesting building with sharp white angles and a helicopter outside. It was beautiful up there, with several feet of snow on the ground, but the afternoon air was too chilly to stay out of the car for long. We headed home, past the resort with small ant sized people sliding down white snow slopes in the distance. Several deer popped out of the woods next to the car and my dad stopped in the middle of highway to pull out his video camera, handing it to me to film as he scooted his PT Cruiser into the snow. They were beautiful and I got a close up of one looking at me, her ears moving around at different angles.

More highway, more cute cabins with puffs of smoke coming out of the top as they were nestled in the white winter snow. There were several large obnoxious lodges too, rented out to people up there skiing. Then suddenly, Dad starts driving off the paved road in his little car. We passed a sign saying "Unpaved Road Next 9 Miles", and I warned him to turn back, but he is stubborn and kept going. My niece couldn't find the road on the GPS, while we were pretty much sliding down the rest of the mountain on the snow packed road. Dad sped over ice and through mud puddles in sunny spots until we ended up on a paved road in a wind blown field that didn't have much snow on it at all. A bunch of black fuzzy cows looked at us, surprised to see a car most likely, then kept eating.

Then we saw the elk, several cows and a two males with large antlers. Our car scared them into the edge of the forest, but they kept browsing, thinking they were hidden enough. Dad handed me the video camera, and I got some great shots. My niece asked me how to spell "elk" as she texted her friends, then got mad when she saw there were no bars on her phone. It was the highlight of the day. I think Dad wanted to spend some time in nature with me before I moved to Wyoming, we often hike together and go on road trips.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine Cake Disaster

The rich smell of chocolate filled my pea green seventies kitchen as I mixed up the cake batter from scratch. The mountain chickadee jumped around the pine tree outside the widow, happy about the new suet that I put up, looking for a good angle to eat it. Everything was going well, my batter tasted good, I thought it would be a tasty cake. It is hard baking at over 5,000 feet though. I always adjust the temperature lower than what recipes call for, but I shouldn't have trusted to bake it as long as it called for. Long before the timer went off even, my cakes started to burn. I cut the burned parts off and shaped them into squares. The scrub jay came right up to the widow, standing on the outside counter to eat the dropped pieces of suet I left when I put it in the suet cage. He stood just inches from me, and I got a good look at the detail on his feathers and legs as he pecked at the counter and kept an eye on me. All I needed was frosting to cover my sad pieces of cake. I had to cut the recipe for the frosting in half though, I didn't have enough powder sugar. I forgot to cut one ingredient and it turned into a soupy mess.

I had to make a trip to the store to just buy pre-made trans fatty frosting and slopped it all over the cake. I didn't have powder sugar, so put a heart on top with regular sugar. I was ready to just throw the monstrosity into the trash when my 14 year old nephew came up from his cave downstairs and cut a big piece. Fifteen minutes later, I saw his scraped clean plate sitting on the counter. Since he ate the whole piece, it must have been good, and that empty plate was the best compliment on the worst looking cake.

Saying Goodbye to Friends

Well deserved sleep! I slept in late in this morning. I always enjoy my Saturdays, but it is a good feeling to know that I don't have to ever go back to the work that I have been doing the last two years. My dad asked me to go on a death march with him up the snow covered Sandia Mountains, but I was still too tired.

After watching the newly installed History Channel like a zombie all day, I met up with Chadi and Christine at a Chinese restaurant to celebrate the new year. Then we went to the dollar theater to see a movie. The cop car was out in front of the theater to prevent stabbings on a Saturday night. I don't know why people in Albuquerque like to stab each other, they just do. I've been at a party where I had to leave because some one was stabbed, and I know someone who showed me his stab wounds. He said he was just at a party when a random guy stabbed him. Really Albuquerque?

The movie was "Have You Heard About the Morgans?" in celebration of me moving to Wyoming. After Sam Elliot knocked out a bad guy with a horse shoe from across the rodeo, Chadi turned to me and said "This is a very bad movie." I didn't know what she was talking about, because I loved it. I think Sam Elliot and Hugh Grant are very sexy, and I liked looking at all the pretty scenes in Wyoming.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Last Day of Work

I felt a lot of love on my last day of work. Me and my co-workers went out for Thai food for lunch, then I spent the afternoon cleaning off my work laptop of pictures. I was so exhausted from the stress of losing my laptop, I've had it two years. The vice president called toward the end of the day, wishing me luck with my next job, and it really touched me. I will actually be only two hours away from her place in South Dakota, and might visit her. She was the one who hired me a couple of years ago when I was much in need for money.

I came home and babysat my one year old nephew for the night as a guy installed cable for my sister. She got a little jealous of me quitting my job and decided to quit hers too. I guess she needs the cable to entertain herself, not having anything to do now. She certainly won't be cleaning. My nephew is learning to walk, so I took his socks off so he could get a grip on the floor with his feet. He was walking all over the place without the socks! She feeds him crap, like McDonald's Happy Meals already when he has only 4 teeth. So I snuck some kale into his mash potatoes I fed him, to get a few vitamins in him at least, and used car noises to get him to eat. We had some bonding moments.

I crashed in bed early, I was so tired from the day.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Pointless Work and the Valentine

I feel kind of useless being at work today, I already cleaned out my office and am just waiting till Friday comes so that I am done with this job. Tasks accomplished today: free meal with the people from the corporation that took over my corporation while an engineer presented something about the drainage she is working on, I carried a very large spider plant to Paul's office, I used lots of corporate tape to remove hair from my polartec fleece, an exit meeting with my boss and the payroll lady, I checked road conditions in Colorado and Wyoming for my drive up next week, and I took my wildlife textbooks down to my car.

I'm still thinking about the Valentine card I received in the mail yesterday, it was very sweet with a gift card. Is this my first valentine? It might be. The card was in a pink envelope with hearts on it, and the card had a couple of dogs on it. It said "I Chews You" inside with his signature. I kept looking at it, thinking about how he touched it just a few days before, it is something to hold on to and treasure.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Cleaning Out My Corporate Desk

A few minutes ago, birding posters from Texas and California were covering these now blaring white office walls. My giant spider plant now sits lonely on top of my corporate issued bookshelf, its spider babies hanging down to the third shelve. A philodendron grows happily from a purple bottle that I placed a small leaf in over two years ago, it's roots grow in swirl patterns inside and the lush foliage cascades down my desk.

An email from my boss "Call me." In response if she had any work for me to do for the week. I called. My boss's boss wanted me to leave Friday instead of next month with some severance pay.

So I'm leaving this job in just two day, I am terrified and excited. I cleaned out my desk instead of attending the conference call for my business unit, which put a big smile on my face to not being the one asking questions about where our billable work was coming from in the next few months. I found old receipts for car rentals, hotels, even food I ate all the way back to two years ago. They were from places like Nogales, AZ, all border towns from the shores of California to the Gulf of Texas that I have spent years working in as a biologist.

Several years ago, after an attempt to drive to Vermont led to me selling pottery and living in my parent's mountain side cabin, I got a call where a good job landed in my lap, an old friend recommended me. A look at my depleted bank account, a quick plane ride a few days later, and over two years of corporate servitude in saying it is alright to bulldoze places without endangered species living on them...well here I am today. The private corporate sector of biology work is looked down on by those who have federal and non profit jobs protecting land and animals, but it is needed as the human race expands and builds more and more. Over two years of being working here though has left me very unfulfilled.

I will be camping this summer in Wyoming, and will be counting birds everyday. This is a dream job for someone like me, this is where I want my career to go back to again. The best job I ever had was camping and counting birds for the Bureau of Land Management in southern California several years ago.

This blog will be about my new adventure to Wyoming, that might start as soon as next week. Please check back often. I will be camping for up to ten days at a time, and will have to post to the blog when I have access to civilization again. My job starts in May, I will be exploring Wyoming on my own until then.