Chapter One: Collision in Willow Draw

Two emergency responders lifting stretcher into rescue vehicle
Two emergency responders lifting stretcher into rescue vehicle
Emergency Responders by Pagosa Springs EMS

The middle finger of Josie’s left hand twitched and pulled a furrow in the dirt. Tiny tan puffs curled away, mini dust devils that collapsed and settled back to earth. Moments later Josie’s left eye cracked open but only a tawny, powdery dirt hillside with hunks of broken sandstone and bare oak brush branches came into a hazy view. Her favorite baseball cap lay inverted and folded up against a rock. Like a high centered turtle. CSU. Equine Science, in green. Out of reach. Fading. Dusk, maybe? Josie tried to sit up but she felt like she was back on…

Fingers typing on keyboard
Fingers typing on keyboard
Photo by Kaitlyn Baker on Unsplash

And why I am beginning again

Number five. Snow. At 8000 feet in the curve of the continental divide, I am watching it snow once again, flakes floating downward at first, then blowing sideways as the drifts mount. We have nine inches of hard, icy base, and as much as two feet of powder on top of that. Plow, shovel, walk-behind snowblower powder. A few days of above freezing temps under sapphire skies. Repeat. Is it any wonder I keep putting on the snowshoes? Just ask the dogs.

Number four. Grandkids. “Grandma, is chapter five of Zippy done yet?” Last year I started a personalized little…

Open base on infield dirt of a baseball field
Open base on infield dirt of a baseball field
Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

How youthful rebellion and pandemic isolation relate

I don’t remember what they were talking about and I probably didn’t understand my parents’ conversation anyway, but I remember what I said:

“Well, that’s crap.”

Tires screeched on the pavement and the car swerved to the curb. No seatbelts back then, so I hit the door on my side, behind my father.

My mom and dad both turned around to glare at me.

“Young lady, don’t you ever say that word again. I will not have a daughter of mine talking filth. Is that understood?” My mom was in charge of family discipline. My brother probably sat there smirking…

Closeup of turkey vulture
Closeup of turkey vulture
Photo by Steve Harvey on Unsplash

Why you shouldn’t judge a bird by his beak

During our five-year span living northeast of Ft. Collins, Colorado, we had frequent encounters with birds: from the iridescent pheasants bobbing and strutting across our driveway, wide-eyed barn owls nesting in pockmarks along the irrigation canal banks, white pelicans fishing in Cobb Lake. Meadowlarks serenaded sunrise from a post behind the horse barn, like heralds of the morning. Eagles foraged near the warm water inlet into the Fossil Creek Reservoir, and Redtails, Swainson’s and Cooper’s hawks soared over the open pastures, emitting eerie high-pitched shrieks.

Before their separation from Colorado State University, the Rocky Mountain Raptor Center maintained their Educational…

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…

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

Image for post
Image for post
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.


Animal Anecdote

How being pick of the litter can lead to heartbreak

Image for post
Image for post
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…

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…

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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