My life has changed drastically since choosing this rural life.

When I lived in the Boston area, I would have a harried list of things to do each day, the least of which would be to fight traffic while running all my errands.  I chose a decidedly slower and less stressful lifestyle when I relocated to Texas three years ago.  Or, as I lovingly refer to it, “Planet Texas”.

Now don’t get me wrong, this is in no way a slight on the state.  The name came purely from my own feelings of being deposited on another planet, far from my busy Boston area life.  I would send letters back to family and friends, titled “Missives from Planet Texas.”  The following is just one of those letters:

Dear Gretchen,

Have you ever had one of THOSE days?  You know, the ones where anything that can go wrong, just does?  Like the one you had the other day when your toddler locked you out of the house and the police and fire department showed up and the neighbors watched from behind the curtains?  I think I’m having one.

My day started like any other.  I got up with the sun and went out to feed the horses.  My mare, Breeze, is still a bit under the weather after her brush with mortality last week.

Remember how she ate too fast and choked on her feed, resulting in a whopping vet bill to clear the obstruction?  I wanted to check her out thoroughly this morning, so I tried to get a halter on her.  There was no way she would come near me after the injections I had to give her this last week.  She’d wait for me to approach, and then trot out of reach and snort at me.  So I figured she ain’t acting sick, just off, y’know.  So I decided I’ll just have to keep a watch on her.  No sense in trying to walk down an endurance-bred horse in a 18 acre pasture.  Some old hand here told me that a body can walk down a horse if they are hard to catch.  He never met Breeze.  I tried that a few weeks ago.  The object is to approach the horse to halter them, and if the horse refuses to stand to be “caught”, drive the horse away.  Repeat as needed until the horse finds it easier to submit to being caught rather than being made to move away.  Three hours into it, Breeze won.

Anyway, back to today.  About an hour after feeding the horses, my elderly landlord shows up wanting to pick up his cattle trailer.  He dropped the trailer off a couple of months ago so we could clean up the junk the previous tenant left in the yard.  I had heard of people collecting things that they could recycle/reuse, but this was insanity.  The entire barn, the yard surrounding the house, and some of the pasture was filled with junk.  I had backed the trailer into an area between the house and the barn, an area about 10-feet wide.  Since parking it there, the carpenters built a stairway leading up to the barn apartment, thus reducing the size of the clearance to about 8 feet.

Oh joy.

My landlord is in his late 70’s, failing vision… you get the idea, and no way he is going to be able to back into that space, let alone hitch and pull the trailer out.  He is a very sweet and gentle man.  I was not going to make him move the trailer.

Not a problem… I backed the thing in there (though the space was wider then) so I should be able to get it out.  I backed my truck right up to the trailer and hitched it up without a problem.  Did I mention there is a century old oak tree opposite the stair rail?  Very tight quarters, but so far so good!  I began pulling very slowly and carefully to get the trailer out of the tight spot when I felt the truck shift weight to one side slightly.  I had (note I said “had”) about 4 inches between my truck cab and the tree.  Then, I had none.

In fact, the tree was pressed firmly into the side of my truck and the truck was wedged.  Oh yeah…  nice big dent.  Tree-trunk shaped.  Apparently, the trailer shifted to one side when a tire slid off a large, flat rock and moved the back of my truck over to the side.  At that point I had no choice but to slowly ( and painfully, while whispering colorful language under my breath) backed the truck and trailer up…  which, of course, added to the damage to my truck.   But, if I tried to pull forward I would have lodged the tree between the bed and the cab of the truck.

After doing so many miniscule adjustments back and forth to jockey the truck away from the tree—over enough not to hit the tree but not so far as to wedge the trailer against the new porch and stairs—I got the sunova-you-know-what free.

Then I got out to check my wounded truck: I have a huge dent about 1 and a half feet wide and 2 feet tall… and tree trunk shaped.   Complete with scraped paint and busted up body work.  Just last fall I did a nice job repairing rust damage—I am the Bondo Queen!  My hard work was ruined.

At that point I was speechless.  No cuss words can convey, y’know?  Okay, there were a few, but with two elderly southern gentlemen standing at my elbow, what could I say?  I am sure my face said it all.  Attesting to their grand manners, neither man said much, though I detected a wry grin under one of the carefully tilted hats.  I graciously excused myself from the situation, unhitched the trailer so Mr.  Landlord could hook it up and haul it away and I headed into the house mumbling something about making a phone call.  “ Hello? Homesteader’s Anonymous?”

Alrighty now… on to the next thing… I had to go cash a check and pay some bills that I was unable to pay the other day because the bank closed early on Friday.  Okay, I admit it.  I was running late because I spent too much time at the feed store dilly-dallying over the pros and cons of various feeds, animal bedding, and wormers.  When I was in the Boston area, the banks stayed open on Saturdays — I really do need to get used to the country life where banks close on weekends.  I made the 10 mile drive to the bank to cash checks, and pay my bills via phone.  The “local” post office is 10 miles in the other direction and I am grateful to be able to do business by phone.  While in town, I took care of all my shopping: People food at the grocery store, horse and dog food at the feed store, a stop at the hay dealer to load the back of my truck, and a few other stops before heading home.  I used to live within five minutes of anything I wanted or needed.  Now, I plan carefully because there are no convenience stores where I live.  If you need milk, you milk the cow or goat, or drive 20 miles round-trip for a gallon.

As I was driving down our country road, I passed my friend Wilton’s farm and noticed his cattle and other livestock were not out in the front pasture like they are usually.  No biggie… they have a big back pasture.  A few houses down, I found the herd feasting on the neighbor’s lawn.  I turned my truck around and pulled into the driveway, beeping the horn.  That’s Texan for “I come in peace… please don’t shoot!”  No one came out… except for 4 big, rangy, guard dogs.  I tried calling Wilton’s cell phone, but got no answer.  He doesn’t live nearby, so I had to handle this myself.  A couple of scenarios passed through my head, along with an accompanying News headline: “Former Boston Woman Trampled by Herd.”  Or how about this one: “Former Boston Woman Mauled by Attack Donkeys.”  Because I was not getting out of the truck, I began to move the herd with my truck.  I moved in slowly so as not to spook them into the road.  The plan was simple enough, but I forgot to tell the stock.

The #@$^!?* ram began challenging my truck, crashing his horns into my bumper.  One of the donkeys eyes my truck suspiciously and flattens his ears back.  I beep my horn and merrily press on.  The larger of the two donkeys begins sucking in air, and explodes with the loudest “HEEEHAAAAWWW!” I have ever heard.  The cattle started calling back and the noise was getting louder, and the dust was rising.  About that time, I heard an odd fluttering sound, and two chickens landed on my hood.  Beeping didn’t dislodge them.  The ranch dogs?  They watched lazily from the porch… must have been their day off.  I would not to be deterred.  I rolled down my window and began waving my arm at the menagerie.  “Git!”  “Hyaaaah!”  More beeping.  The cattle closed in around my truck as I moved slowly toward the broken fence line.

The ram was still bashing his head into my bumper, and had now caught the attention of the bull.  I watched helplessly as the bull sauntered over to the ram—his nemesis—and challenges him.  Heads lowered, they pushed each other back and forth until the ram gave in and switched places with the bull.  The bull was now stationed in front of my truck, holding his ground.

Now, I know this bull, and actually trust him more than the nasty ram.  Wilton treats him as a pet.  I reached into a grocery bag for a carrot to hold out the window.  He saw the carrot and happily came to my window, like Ferdinand drawn to flowers.  Turned out,  it was maybe not such a good idea, because once he got the carrot, he shoved his massive head in my window and began frisking me rudely for more produce.  A horn slipped inside my shirt and ripped buttons off.

Upside?  Nothing in front of my bumper!  Downside?  I was covered in green bull snot, my shirt was hanging open and I am hoping no one sees this crazy woman in her bra (there are laws against this sort of thing).  All the while, I was trying to drive with a bull’s head between me and the steering wheel.

My hood was now covered in hen poop and feathers.  I was so past this.  About this time, the ram saw my vacant bumper and moved back to his spot.  I thought, “To heck with him.  I’ll run the sumbitch over and make some mutton stew later.  I’ll come up with an excuse as to why the ram is gone.”  Yes… I was close to losing it.  I was actually laughing my you-know-what off.

I managed to crowd him so close to the fence that he slipped backward and fell over the bottom wire and found himself back in the pasture.  He blinked back at me and ambled off.  By then, I was really laughing, and hiccupping.  I grabbed the bag of carrots and threw it over the fence, and the bull, thankfully set off after it like a puppy.  The cows and donkeys watched all this and peacefully stepped through the break in the fence and ran back to their rightful place.   I made another phone call and left a slightly odd message for Wilton about his fence problem, and continued on home.

Nearing home, I was two houses from my drive and saw something large moving in my next-door neighbor’s backyard garden.  At first I figured it was a cow — they have a small herd there.  I looked again and realized it was Jeddha, my son’s horse, followed closely by Breeze, the mare who refuses to be captured.

I slid my truck into my driveway, ran to the barn for a halter and lead, and ran out to the pasture.  The horses were now in the thick brush on the other side of the fence.  Jeddha was whinnying loudly, as if he was screaming, “Momma!” repeatedly.  Then he saw me and began running up and down the fence-line trying to find the break.  Breeze was being aloof, just standing there like “Yeah right… I’m coming to you… uh huh…”  Jeddha found his way and ran to me like he was relieved to have been “found.”  Breeze nonchalantly stepped through the fence and trotted past me.

The fence was destroyed — no fence up for 30 feet, which means the cattle broke it.  Again.  I spent the next couple of hours repairing fencing.

All this by 3:30 pm!  I am worn out.  I am going to take hot bath, and if anyone comes near me I will drown them and make an excuse for the missing later.

So how was your day?

Love, From Planet Texas,

Cynthia

PS: I love this rural life, and wouldn’t trade it for anything!

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