Thursday, September 30, 2010

On the Slide

I had to go to town earlier this week to get the van windshield replaced, so we had four hours to kick around town. Flu shots, shopping, and eating took up some of the time, but the kids really wanted to go to the playground. So off we went, and after Desert Boy played for awhile on the "big" equipment, we went to the "little" slides so Desert Girl could have some fun, too.

They found they could sit side-by-side, and Desert Boy immediately came up with some kind of train analogy. Desert Girl just enjoyed being by her big bro.

They both are good at hamming it up for the camera.

Then it was time to go down the slide, and I was impressed with how well Desert Boy took care of his sister. He put his arm around her to help her.

Emma doesn't look too certain about going down, but they did fine.

She even gave it a go alone.

Like the sock that is about to fall off? It did a little later and I never found it again. Somewhere out there is a lonely white sock.

It probably won't be the first.

Then it was time to make a different train and go down again.

This way also worked well.

Desert Girl is going to like playgrounds as much as her big brother!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Unidentified Walking Object

We live out in the desert, with clear night skies that show off the remotest corners of the universe. We live near restricted military areas where secret things are done. So strange lights in the night, a.k.a. unidentified flying objects, might raise a few eyebrows and start some rumors, but they're not all that unusual.

However, sometimes we see something else out of the ordinary. We live on a cattle ranch, a cow/calf operation. The boys sold off the last of the sheep when their dad went on vacation (when they were teenagers), so the only animals on the ranch are cows and horses and cats and dogs and some 4-H animals.

So when I was driving down the main ranch road the other day, I saw a sight that made me pull out my camera. It was an unidentified walking object.

There was something unusual. (No, it wasn't my extremely dirty windshield. That unfortunately is common.) What I saw was something small and white and following one of the cows. The cow didn't seem to mind at all.

I pulled to a stop, rolled down the window, and waited.

And I got a good view of a sheep. The sheep that has decided it wants to be a cow.

Monday, September 27, 2010

In Nineteen Years...

In nineteen years, little Desert Girl can take the Semester in the West class at Whitman College. It's open to sophomores and above, and last night they stayed on the ranch near our house, camping out in the pasture. They came to learn about the water issues here, after having visited Owens Valley and spending some time up on the Colorado Plateau (which feeds the Colorado River).

It looks like a neat program, multidisciplinary and covering about 10,000 miles over four months. Just thinking about all the places they're going (or have already gone) has awakened my travel bug!

You can see more on their Semester in the West web page.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

High School Rodeo

My nephew was planning to ride in his high school rodeo, and I knew this was an event I couldn't miss. I had never even heard of high school rodeo until I moved out here, although looking at the National High School Rodeo webpage, apparently it does exist in the state I grew up in.

Let me just say that if my high school had had rodeo, it would definitely have given school sports an entirely different flavor! This is a wild and unpredictable sport, as you'll see below. And it's one that is a horse lover's dream. It was impressive all the ways that the horses had been trained, and how well the young adults rode them.

I've only been to one rodeo in my life before, and never to a high school one, so I was impressed with how big the event was. People from all over the state were there, with a huge array of horse trailers and trucks. There was a large arena and a smaller arena so they could run events concurrently.

The first event was barrel racing. The basic premise of this event is ride around three barrels without knocking them down and then back across the finish line. The best time was in 17.something seconds. The times are recorded to the thousandths, with many times very close.

Many of the riders made it look deceptively easy.

It's not easy to make a tight turn around a barrel when you're trying to move as fast as possible. A barrel knocked down is a five second penalty.

After every few riders, the tractor came in to rake the arena.

I had the kids with me, and Desert Boy quickly decided he was more interested in playing in the grandstands. He made a new friend and they played a variety of games.

It was nice to keep him somewhat entertained.

An ambulance was posted at the rodeo and unfortunately had to make a couple trips to the hospital. The events had to wait until a different ambulance came to take its place.

Soon it was time for bull riding.

If I was the mother of a bull rider, I don't think I could watch. I had a hard enough time as it was.

Here's a thousand plus pounds of mad bull charging out of the gate, with a lanky teenage holding on for everything he's got, trying to stay on that magic eight seconds.

The first couple riders got hung up on the bull and didn't get a clean getaway. Another bull charged its rider after it had thrown him and horned him in the bum in retribution for the boy having the audacity to even try riding him. Ouch.

Meanwhile, in the smaller arena a goat tying competition was going on. A girl rode her horse as fast as she could, dismounted while it was still running, then tied the goats legs as fast as she could. It was all over in about ten seconds, they were fast! The jumping off the horse part obviously took a lot of coordination.

We met up with some family and Emma stole the show for awhile.

She just can't help but be cute! You can see by her bulging belly that she's enjoying eating.

Clay and his dad left with their gear so that Clay could get ready to compete.

In the big arena they were steer wrestling. That means ride your horse fast next to a running steer, jump off and tackle it, and turn its neck so that it falls to the ground.

Hmm, sounds fun, doesn't it?

Team roping was next, an event that might be a little more practical than some of the others.

Then there were three riders who competed on bareback, trying to stay on an unsaddled horse for eight seconds.

That horse doesn't look too happy to have a ride on him. Amazingly, two of the three riders stayed on for eight seconds.

Eight seconds might not sound like long, but on a bucking, angry animal, it must feel like eight hours.

I was continually amazed how the horses were so good at having all four hooves off the ground at the same time.

In the small arena it was time for poles, where you weave your horse between the poles as fast as you can.

Then it was time for Clay's event, saddle bronc. These horses looked just as mad as the big bulls.

They wanted no part of having a rider on them.

The riders were having a hard time staying on them.

And some of the dismounts were spectacular.

We watched Clay getting ready with his dad's help. Clay is smart enough to wear extra padding and a helmet so that he doesn't get too many extra bruises. When you know you're going to be falling off a tall animal sooner or later, you've got to think of a good exit strategy.

I'm not exactly sure what they're doing here, but I wonder if Clay ever thinks, 'Why am I doing this?' If it's to make his mom worried, it's working!

The rider and horse behind Gate 5 were supposed to go next, but that horse started bucking before they even opened the gate, so they had Clay go next.

He puts on his helmet...
...gets on the horse...
...and he's out in the arena!
He didn't make it the eight seconds, but the most important part was that he wasn't one of the ones needing an ambulance ride, he was able to get up and walk away.

He's competing again today. Good luck, Clay!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Bowers Cave

After a visit to Mammoth Lave Tube, we decided to try and find Bowers Cave. None of us had ever been there before, so it took a little looking. We knew we were close when we saw the sign pointing to the parking area. Desert Boy and Desert Girl had had enough excitement and were napping, so my husband stayed with them while Kent and I went in search of the cave entrance.

The entrance wasn't far away, and we found the cavers we had met at the other cave. The main entrance to Bowers Cave is a 15 foot drop, and they had rigged the entrance with a rope and were taking turns rappelling into it.

It's a good place to practice basic vertical skills.

We hadn't brought our vertical gear, but fortunately one of the cavers in their group showed us another entrance into the cave.

It was kind of small, but it didn't require rope!

It's not easy to find entrances with so much lava in the area! Or rather, it's not easy to find entrances that go very far.

This entrance was used by a canid (member of the dog family). There was a lot of canid scat, so possibly it's used as a coyote den.

There was also lots of packrat scat and three of these large Tipulidae flies.

After we got through the crawly part, the cave opened up and we were able to stand up.

I found a cave cricket on the wall, the only one I saw in this cave.

Down one passage were really cool roots hanging from the ceiling. Often roots are a good place for cave critters, so I looked a bit.

I didn't find any, but I did see some neat water drops on some of the roots.

We followed one passage until it pinched off. Then another passage until it did the same. Then we headed back into the main passage.

It was easy walking, with a high ceiling. Wow, I could get used to this kind of caving!

I saw a couple of these silver springtails, less than a centimeter long. They have strong tails that help them spring from place to place. Usually they just walk around, though.

I found an interesting rock covered with beetle carcasses, but couldn't figure out what had left them.

We kept on going down the main passage past the main entrance until it got really low and we decided we really didn't want to crawl.

Then we went back to the main entrance to take a look at it. I saw a way to climb out and did so, and then Kent followed.

It was a neat cave, and I'd definitely go back some day.

Maybe next time Desert Boy and Desert Girl will be awake enough to enjoy this cave!
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