I want to be remembered

Little boy playing in a pile of leaves
Little boy playing in a pile of leaves
Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash

In 2018, The Association for Psychological Science research indicated that people’s earliest memories date from around three to three and a half years of age.

Now, as I reach the winter of my life, where time is shortened and unpredictable, my need, my spark, is to open avenues of interest in nature, adventure, make-believe, and magic for my grandsons, who are four and seven years old.

Time’s a-wasting.

In 2020, this year of Pandemic isolation, we quarantined and Covid-tested so that we could spend time with family.

We camped and fished with our son, his wife, and our grandsons. We brought the little boys home to our ranch. They ran to the top of the gravel pile with our dogs, dogs they can’t have at home because of familial allergies. They used their swords and bows against the mighty cardboard Ninjago Garmadon and swung like arboreal vines across the monkey bars inside the house and out. We played silly card games and board games and turned out all the house lights to gaze in awe at the cotton candy milky way in our pitch-black mountain night. Our older grandson came to hike and ride horses, to watch a bear cub stuff his face with acorns, and the resident doe and fawn graze beneath the Ninja course. We were making memories that Grandpa and I have, for now, memories they will have forever. …

Was it my fault that he died?

Ultrasound picture of fetus with owl mask
Ultrasound picture of fetus with owl mask
Photo by Daiga Ellaby on Unsplash

I almost said that he never lived. But he did. It’s all in your definition.

He was the most vigorous of the boys, a staccato beat on my belly drum, a bat out of hell instead of a butterfly. Technically, a fetus on the knife’s edge of viability, insistent on attention, disruptive of sleep, of work.

Work that killed him. My work. Standing there by the horse stocks, working with a young, unhandled, nervous filly shifting side to side, crashing side to side, testing the resolve of the two-inch pipes that restrained her so that we could suture her wound. …

Surgeons at work with bloody gloves and suction
Surgeons at work with bloody gloves and suction
Photo by Olga Kononenko on Unsplash

Surgery —” A chance to cut is a chance to cure”

I was eighteen when I blew out the anterior cruciate ligament in my left knee for the first time, thanks to a bucking horse. Eight years later, in vet school, another horse flipped in to me and finished the job. I was thirty-seven when my younger son used my other knee as a bumper guard skiing down the baby slope.

At sixty-eight, having my femur and tibia ends sawed off and knee replaced with titanium and plastic seemed like science fiction meets the ax murderer. What if it failed? …

Animal Anecdote

Bald guys and biker dudes need not apply

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The Outlaw Jesse James. Photo by the author

We have collected rejects, the lost, and the homeless — horses, dogs, and cats. All our children are loved and wanted, and here and now so are the horses, dogs and cats.

Jesse was a reject.

Some of the following is known. The rest of the story could have gone like this:

Jesse as a pup was chosen by a mom with little kids who lived in a little trailer in a little town in New Mexico. Near a train station. The Dad was a big guy with a shining bald pate, dark beard, and a loud motor cycle.

The little kids loved the puppy until she pulled on their pant legs, dashed between their legs knocking them down, licked their faces free of smeared baby food and peanut butter. Still, the puppy made them laugh. …

Animal Anecdote

How being pick of the litter can lead to heartbreak

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Dundee. Black tri Australian Shepherd. Photo by the author.

He glanced back and forth, back and forth, whining, frozen to one spot there in the kitchen, terrified at his sudden blindness. I could feel the thud of his heart against his ribs as I held him, fast but irregular, and it looked like all the blood in his body was concentrated in his remaining eye. He was only eight.

How did the pick of the litter, primed for show, end up collapsing in the Colorado mountains?

Dundee, Travlin’ Man, was bred to be a champion Australian Shepherd, directed to a show home where he would be groomed for stardom. His owner trained him to trot with panache, to pose tabletop, to love his admirers. And he took him camping once or twice. But human romance had other plans for the young dog. Dundee’s first owner married a lady with little kids, little dogs, and they had a little yard. In a city. Dun was relegated to a pen or a kennel, ostracized by his size and his exuberance. His hair grew and matted, he fretted in frustration and isolation. Fortunately, his only remaining admirer was the breeder who had created him and she had retained controlling interest in the planned best of breed. …

Man on tall ladder and many men roofing a barn
Man on tall ladder and many men roofing a barn
Photo by Randy Fath on Unsplash

The choice of end of life strategies.

No, that’s Dad repairing the cap on the chimney spark arrester.

What’s a 78-year-old retiree doing on a forty-foot ladder?

It’s what you do if you retire thirty miles from civilization in the middle of a three-thousand-acre housing development at 7900’ elevation. If he fell off on top of me, it might be weeks before one of our kids noticed our lack of response to texts and asked the nearest neighbors almost two miles away to check on us.

By then the dogs and cats would have finished us off, the horses would have starved, but the house would stand not by God singed by an errant ember. …

The spires of Chimney Rock National Monument, Colorado
The spires of Chimney Rock National Monument, Colorado
The spires of Chimney Rock National Monument. Photo by the author.

Visiting the sacred site of Ancient Puebloan culture without the discord of tourist season allows quiet contemplation and reverence for cultures past

Feeling acrophobic, I kept my horse hugging the uphill side of the road, just off the sunburned striated sedimentary rock that makes up the face of the Chimney Rock mesa. Jim’s horse kept veering towards the cliff, gazing hundreds of feet down to the scrub oak, cactus and gnarled juniper on the flats off highway 151. We followed the modern roadway two and a half miles up to 7500 feet elevation. In 1076, Ancient Puebloans had a steeper, narrower climb.

The Ancient Puebloans of Chimney Rock were the northernmost outpost of the Chaco Canyon group of Uto-Aztecan culture that existed from 1 to 1300 AD. …

Animal Anecdote

What a dog will hunt to survive

Statue of lion with mane like porcupine quills
Statue of lion with mane like porcupine quills
Photo by K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash

Two days before Christmas last year, Abby and Gwen drove south toward Santa Fe.

A skeletal black and grey dog limped alongside the highway carrying its right hind leg, its fur matted with wild rose branches, oak leaves, and pine pitch. Its mouth gaped open and its face, ears, and right side bristled with hundreds of porcupine quills. The dog was camouflaged against the gravel and the exhaust spattered snow patches but for the dirty white of her ruff. Abby and Gwen pulled over. The dog hesitantly wagged its stub of a tail and stopped, not quite crouching. …

Cattle behind a frozen fence
Cattle behind a frozen fence
Photo by Scott Ymker on Unsplash

How a contemporary cowboy faced down cancer in the midst of a roundup

The old Dodge pickup rattled on the side of the dirt road and its headlight beams caught the strange leg swing of the limping man with the cane. Our horses startled in the pitch-black night. They were young enough to want to turn tail and bolt.

My husband Jim and I were the first riders down off the Cimarrona where we’d left fifty New Mexican cows and their two-week-old calves. …

Distance, the COVID-19 pandemic, and remote connections confound generational nurturing.

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Dad and sons hiking into the woods. Photo by author.

My first grandson commanded our time every Monday. We rocked, we cuddled, we played, we laughed, we chased the bunnies, weighed the hay buckets for the horses in the barn. We toddled along the ditch trail and imagined glorious journeys while play piloting the old red tractor someone had discarded out in the field. He drove the old pickup in Granddaddy’s lap on the red gravel roads of the farm. Until he was two

Granddad and I moved six hours south to wilder, higher land, pursuing our horseback dreams in our retirement. Acres of pine, oak, grass with the music of the Navajo River out the back door and the bugling of elk surrounding us. …


Patty Latham

Veterinarian CSU 1975. Mom. Rider of mustangs. Author of Napa Valley Vets, novel Colorado Blood, and over 20 case reports and features for EQUUS and on line..

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