The days whizzed by, and before we knew it Thanksgiving was upon us, with glorious red leaves on the Spanish Oak trees and the grasses wearing their fall colors.
We spent time at the farm with family, including my cousin, Kathy Cash, and her husband Eric Vanderbeck. Kathy was the talk of Thanksgiving Day, almost upstaging the turkey with her apron.
The dogs, as usual, had a great time. Kota, with the requisite "it's time for a walk" stick in her mouth, signals the beginning of the morning's hike. The going-for-a-walk stick is a farm tradition. Nickie started it shortly after she and Feathers joined our family in 2006, and she used it to announce the beginning of our daily ramblings. Then, Nickie taught it to Kota, who as senior dog carries on the custom. It appears to have meaning primarily at the farm. Rarely, if ever, are sticks used to signal a walk anywhere else. Of course, the farm is almost the only place dogs run completely free and can ramble pretty much as they please.
It's a place where Rue can usually indulge one of her favorite pastimes...splashing in whatever water is available. Here she enjoys a puddle in the coastal bermuda field.
And below her guilty expression shows she knows she isn't supposed to be splashing in the rainwater that collected in the wheelbarrow.
Then a few short weeks later, the Christmas holidays were upon us. We joined John's sister, Judith, along with her son, Chris, and daughter-in-law, Jamie, to celebrate an early Christmas In Lake Jackson with John's mother, Maxine Johnston and her husband, Vic.
Then we were off again to the farm. We had expected Kathy and Eric, as well as my brother, Allan and his family. However, family considerations and the flu intervened so John and I and the Pack celebrated a quiet holiday by ourselves.
An unexpected cold snap brought a heavy frost to Stanford Valley. The early morning sun made the grasses shimmer.
and the cows appeared to be grazing in a field of ice.
The icy weather brought other rewards as well. John took a small deer at the farm to go with the one he shot earlier. It was Rue's first experience up close and personal with a deer, and she wasn't sure what to make of it!
We had another close encounter with wild game the next day. While walking across the "mountain" on the east side of the property, we found many signs that feral hogs were again active in our area. The ground under the cedar trees on top of the mountain looked like it had been plowed...acres and acres of it. And from time to time we could detect the musty, sweetish smell of a hog pen. Then, as Colt and Kota ranged ahead of us in the brush, we heard the unmistakable sounds of hogs. They grunted, snorted, and went crashing through the underbrush. John and I, afraid that the dogs would take them on, called frantically. We shouldn't have worried. Colt and Kota came racing back to us, looking over their shoulders to be sure the hogs weren't in hot pursuit. Thank goodness Rue was off to the other side of the trail and missed the excitement. I'm not sure she would have been as wise.
After returning home, we enjoyed a third Christmas celebration, this time with my son Brian and his family. Here, Myles and Mallory model silly wigs from our "white elephant" gift exchange, and grandson Gage relaxes in John's chair by the fire.
It was a joyous end to what has in some ways been a difficult year. Nickie's death and the forced sale of most of our cattle due to the extreme several-year drought were the low points. Thank goodness they were offset somewhat by our visits in Cambodia and Texas with good friends Jimmy and Danine, and by time with our family and friends at home and on the road. In spite of the losses, we have been very blessed. We look forward to 2014 and hope that we will have the joys of 2013 without the sorrows, and we wish all of you a Blessed and Happy New Year.