Sunday October 30th, and we have been rescued by a hillbilly and a city slicker. This morning we left the sweet haven of J’s, serenaded goodmorning and goodbye by cages of colorful birds. The day was hot already as we started down Black Bart Trail, and about the first mile in on that sharp gravel road the ponies were already footsore and dragging. The road seemed endless, snaking along the mountain, dusty and rocky under the burning sun. Five miles took three hours, Bacca was not doing well and i had to get off and walk her, it took all my energy to persuade her that we had to keep going. Such a frustrating stretch, as she was obviously lame and hurting from the gravel, but we had to keep going regardless, all tired and lagging, yanking our horses down what seemed like the longest road yet…
When we finally got to the creek under Potter Valley Road, we took the ponies to drink at the edge of its questionable scumminess, reminding ourselves that we still had 10 miles to go down highway 20 before decent camping- if any…
We were all footsore and irritable with exhaustion, and Bacca was lame on her back left..
That was when the good shepherd found us. We didn’t know that guardian angels rode ATVs. A funny little man showed up, gnome-like with a grizzly beard, and offered us a rest in his 20 acre cow pasture across the road.
[It was still a dark moon, that phase. I felt it, accepting the offer to rest, felt it walking through the rusty wire gate, while knowing that going on was not a choice either. We were all tired, Bacca was not fit to go on as she was…]
The tent is on the only flat spot amongst hills so steep that we find ourselves walking vertically, out of breath, to try and get anywhere. On a search to find the water trough, we found fenced in plots of very fragrant plants…Little did we know, this raggy shaggy little man bounces around like a pingpong ball between growing enclosures scattered all around his land. Also a strange pond covered with algae, 6 roaming cows and 1 black bull glaring with red eyes. A crescent moon cratered in the hills across the way, watching us all the while.
[watching everything change, while i die inside of stagnation and am enveloped in grief. Another valley I cannot see out of. (dont linger- i hear it, and worry)]
After we got the ponies untacked and tent set up, the first thing we did was sit down in the sun and rummage through the food bags to find something edible…not much there. D had gone off to find grub for the ponies, so we waited, tired and not knowing what step to take next. Suddenly, a figure appeared on the distant hills- we got up to meet this person, and found him to be a cute guy bringing us a skillet full of potatoes, scrambled eggs, toast and cheese! He also handed us chips and sodas- hill service. We thanked A for his graciousness and good timing, then he turned around and vanished as quickly as he’d appeared.
Thursday Nov 3rd Today I can feel winter here for the first real time. The rain this morning, cloudy silver skies, chilling wind, and the trees bursting into flames down State st. in Ukiah. So individually breathtaking, these flames licking out of deep mossy undergrowth. I went to Ukiah for a provision run with A this morning, feeling surreal in the bustle of the city world. Looks like we will be here throughout the weekend-another 3 days and hopefully no more- when will Bacca heal enough to press on-?-the question. The strangeness of the hillbilly haven, with a wandering herd of seven cows, and the bull i had to cross on the tiny ridge on the hill. He is gentle though. And, now moved into the tiny not-quite-plyboard drying shack on the hill, we wait. It doesn’t count as lingering as we have no choice.
Scared, Scared, Scared. But we have found work here, and climb the hill up to Ds house day after day. Bacca not improving, and i am starting to realize Ds persistent questioning is not just blind negativity. “What are you gonna do if she don’t get better?” I hear his worry, and the anxiety creeps in. I am still telling myself that Bacca is fine, it’s just a sore muscle, but her walk is not sound. “Shoot her” i tell him, half joking..
been here 3 1/2 days now. 4 nights. i am loosing track of what i am here. bacca suerte still not improved, limps on her left back hind, we can’t move till she’s sound. no choice now. and here we have made $1200 in 3 days. my hand looks scaley in this green lantern light. tonight is cold, winter is here and settling in my bones like a deep howling warning-
Don’t Linger- i am aware of the constant whisper, then shouts of urgency. all time has seemed to be swept up in a vacuum, swallowed by dark hills. but we cannot leave now and it feels like a curse. with all the blessings of finding work, still cursed.
Tom Waits with the garage door open.
Awake: Friday morning the 4th and it is cold in what Sea calls Turkey roll plyboard shack-hut. The mist is bright and all consuming for the hills. I awake with a knot in my stomach -a day bringing what? i dont want to say good bye to Bacca Suerte -it’s the last thing i can think of doing-but let’s be honest and consider her state- what if she does not get better? and it is not just the pulled muscle to worry about – it’s the fact that she is losing weight even though we are feeding large amounts of grain and hay and not working, but she won’t gain. Unhealthy – too much maintenance. And then there is the rain rot, a bacterial condition where her hair will just flake away in chunks when exposed to constant rain/moisture. We’re headed into rain, not to mention she already has large patches gone on her spine where the saddle sits- i look at it and shiver- what have i done? i have been treating it with expensive medicated shampoo, but no access to water right now and there is nothing i can do. I know at this point it sounds stupid and troublesome to try and do this trip with this horse when looking from the perspective where it all comes down to composition, the physical, the thoroughbred in her. Can’t think what im going to do about it now, she is part of me, the trip, the herd, bonded.
Another dream built and shattered and i have not left myself a way out. There is no choice but to do what the trip requires, to proceed, to succeed, to hurt. No choice. Two dead ends and you still got to choose.
And there is no way to stay here much longer. No more trimming work for now, we should be moving on. It all just feels wrong, misplaced, not anything i imagined happening, and i have to change a lot about myself to accept it. Always changing always scared. Scared of winter…I am allowed to write how i feel: heavy, burdened, dark, broken and i actually feel hopeless. Feeling is overwhelming. If Bacca doesnt get better in three days (including this one), i have got to find another horse. Fast. Just carry on, do what it takes, let the bad luck and uncompromising choice make me into a cold, hard bitch- is this what i want to become? Just not seeing another way. Am i wrong?
do i hang myself from a tree? move to Paris and become a film star? Does life get easier as i step through these jagged doors?
Today is a day and now is night. Bacca Suerte must go. I can’t even saddle her what with the rain rot, hairless patches on her spine. She’ll never make it through the winter and that’s the cold truth. I have started searching for another horse and home for Bacca, where she can stay in a barn that’s dry and where there’s a lot of food throughout the winter. Scared.
Oh How it is cold, from the stars to the earth and straight into my bones.
and they say don’t linger and i say where am i? And then, yes, i’m listening, i’m here, screaming at my failure, hanging hooks where no hooks were. trying to believe in my self and and the power of visualization, because it has been working, throughout all of this, take it with the bad but if i lose faith now i lose the trip, and maybe that’s the worst that could happen.
The rain has started, perhaps in earnest this time. It pours and trickles and slides down on us, making muddy rivulets in the hills and sinking into baccas coat like the plague. No time to think about anything except that she needs a new home at this point- i need to find her a good home, i am consumed with pain, frozen in it, and faced with the fact there is no time to curl up in the morbid harshness of bacca leaving. If i want to keep her, i forfeit the trip, and when i think of forfeiting the trip, i realize that i have not left myself any other options but to continue. there is no way for me to keep a horse right now, except if i am moving with it as part of the herd. bacca will break on this trip, her mind and hooves might be made of steel, but genetics are inevitably racked against her. Admitting this is really letting the knife in, but if i love her, what more can i do than let her go?
And the truth is, there is just no Time. This is the last string of our stay here– we need to get moving. Work is done and the lady of the house (who has never spoken to us and vice versa) scowls at us. It’s almost M & L in a parallel universe. She stakes her claim of the house and we stay in the domain of the garage with D. Things are weird, the port-a-loo is gone. i need to find bacca a new home. i need to find another horse. we don’t have internet or a car or any running water. these are the facts.
Tonight in the rain a woman from the horse rescue came to bring a blanket for bacca suerte. at least now, with every wet saturating drop, i don’t cringe at the thought of it touching her.
It is a dark place, this not knowing. It takes everything i have to remember that i am doing what has to be done. Life needs me to think and not feel right now. To find bacca a home, admit that she is leaving, to not break under the incredible unhappy ending of it all, the things that i just don’t understand….down this road that may twist and wind, but i am in the middle of a dark desert and there is no turning back.
Remember, remember the 5th of November, the gunfire, treason, and Plot.
The 5th of november has Touchdown tonight. Is this a bad sign, that the new horse, who goes by the name Touchdown Cowgirl, has joined us on this very particular november day? She already has a pretty intense past, and has basically been condemned for the past 3 years. She was delivered to us in the rain, after we met her this morning with her wounded legs and spry young foal, weaned way too early. She ran out into the pasture, up and down the slick hills with her clunky platter feet, all but tripping over herself. In her distress, Jesse recieved her and brought her up to see the mares. cowgirl kicked at bacca. bacca suerte seems to know what is happening and is very dark.
Today is the 6th. This morning a pack of ponies came to our shack. i fed them on the hill. The day is clear and bright, and M is taking back bacca tomorrow- the best possible outcome in my mind- M will take care of her and ride her and see her as the smart, quick, good, beautiful horse that she is. I got on cowgirl today, Sea rode her down the road. she has proved herself a horse and a lady from this short excursion, and she just might work…the wounds on her legs are worrisome and disgusting: mentally so, when i have told myself i don’t need another horse to doctor. after bacca, after katy mae, the scar tissue is more than physical. impossible, on the road..
Its night and i sleep soon. not much else to do in our tiny shack with nothing but the tiny light i wear on my head. Its cold, clear not raining, but a chill that cuts cold stars. We will get moving from this place soon. tomorrow i ride cowgirl, order boots, trim pot. things are getting stranger and stranger, stretching in ways time and reality should not, it’s really, deeply time to go. Thoughts strange, astounded by the dark intensity, scattered in ways i cannot put together, trying to turn my thoughts into some explanation, some picture to prove the realness, the warped enchantment.
We have left hillbilly hill. We currently sit across the street at the creek, looking up the 100+ feet elevation of Papa Don’s land. The ponies are now tied to trees, standing in the dappled sunlight of golden leaved elms. We spent the morning hauling all the gear across the hills, up and down unreasonably steep sod, and now sit on large rocks waiting for S to arrive with her trailer. We chose the trailer because it is the only way to get out of here in any sort of sane and smart way – cowgirl slipped on steep cement a few days ago and got a pretty good gash on her knee – now 3 out of 4 legs sport wounds – she needs few days rest – and it’s not gonna be on hillbillyhill now that we have been here 10 days. S is being so gracious and taking us, gear and 3 ponies 50 miles down the road to Cowboy Camp- B.L.M. land close to the highway with corral and toilets- what a concept. We’ll get a couple bails of hay from S and rest cowgirl for a few days, and look for a saddle that fits her withers. Its getting cold- freezing at night but no rain yet. Sea scouted via car the route we were going to take on horseback, recommended by the forest service, got 7 miles up and hit snow – 20 miles and still no water!