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Winter Woes

Story ID:7772
Written by:Kathe M. Campbell (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Only Here
Location:Broken Tree Ranch Montana USA
Year:2009
Person:Me 'n Sweet Pea
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Winter Woes

Winter Woes

Winter Woes
by Kathe Campbell

"Jumpin' Jehosafats," bellowed my veterinarian as he entered Sweet Pea's stall. "Isn't this the big girl you took the Nationals with, Kath," while lifting her foot to examine her hoof.

"She's the one, Doc, one helluva girl to train until she taught us to think like a donkey."

"Pops has been gone for a spell now, hasn't he, Kath?" reckoned Doc.

Fleeting warm thoughts suddenly emerged about our days homesteading on this pristine place. In the spring we stepped lightly upon her as she was pregnant. Mid-summer we stacked dead-standing lodge poles into three splendid log buildings. It had been a sedulous venture fashioning western culture into a fine lodge and hearth. We were invincible - rocking, reminiscing, and spitting at the stove on so many two-dog winter eves, swapping it all back and forth - our times.

But our fifty-three years had taken sudden flight, and now my Pops was gone. Kicking up a chunk of early snow, I spoke aloud about caring for our place after a brutal farm accident. The loss of my dominant right arm had this old prune listing as my dog eagerly ushered our way to morning chores. Would I remember all Pops had taught me about proper care of animals and equipment? Would that sea of tools and mechanical devices residing in the garage be my nemesis? Bent on lifting my burden with his wide smile and love-light shining, Corky slurped cold tears as I knelt to cut open a bale.

"I need to sound cheerful, huh Cork! This pity stuff has gotta go, so I'll make a list and get organized. We're the head honchos now and we'll be each others rock," I promised while caressing his soft head under my chin.

Hurdling snow berms at the barn, I noted my twenty-nine-year-old black champion favoring her right front foot. I didn't waste time, out came the butozolitan paste that relieves swelling and hurt for arthritis and founder, but the paste was not working.

It felt good having Doc here when the jennet seemed too crippled to leave the barn. He took great cuts in her hoof to unleash blood and abscess, but none came. Whatever the infection was, it was contained and she was left with little hoof to hobble on now. He gave her a tetanus shot and constructed a sturdy duct tape boot for her bared foot.

Concerned that I was coping as lone keeper of the ranch, Doc expressed serious fears. "Are you able to give your girl her shots morning and evening, Kath?"

"Oh sure, no problem," I boldly touted my little white lie. I had never given equine shots with two good hands, let alone one. Who did I think I was kidding? A sudden dusting of snow entered the barn, curling around the stall, leaving a soft mist on my face and hair. Was my Pops sending angels to deliver courage?

Leery of my crowing, Doc sighed loudly while filling the syringe with 20 cc's of penicillin. "Okay, Kath, let's see how well you do."

I boldly stepped up to give Pea's tall rump a good whack with my fist, then quickly pierced the spot left-handed. She stood stoic, no sudden jumps, no halter or rope needed. Sweet Pea sensed help on the way.

"Well, fan my britches. I'm not believin' your technique, but I approve," laughed Doc as he packed up the meds. "Right hip mornings, left hip evenings along with daily anti-inflammatories. And Kath, if she's not doing better in ten days, you may want to consider doing her a favor."

I shuddered cold inside, for such an unthinkable idea was not on Pea's and my agenda.

I took to my bed that night giving thanks for heavenly intervention in hopes Pop's angels would be our winter salvation. After a restless night, new routine embraced me as I awoke before dawn to down cappuccinos and ready the meds. Anxiously, I awaited first light hoping Pea was with her sons at their feeder. As pungent trails of rubbing alcohol drifted through frigid air, I needled and pasted while she calmly scoffed up grass hay.

March roared in with Chinooks and old sol goading sprigs of green in-between storms, and despite my first winter alone, I felt like whistling, even with another boot-full of snow. Her mammoth ears sitting forward, Pea walked easier, and when her boys brayed, she heehawed her high-pitched chorus.

Although she will always favor her foot, at thirty Pea has resumed her matriarchal lead. I'll not climb upon her broad back to chase tumbleweeds, or grace show rings ever again. She deserves savoring her fame and offspring, for "Families that bray together - stay together!"