Friday, January 9, 2015

An Almost Unhappy New Year

After returning from Lake Jackson, we celebrated Christmas with My son, Brian, and his family.  In addition to exchanging gifts, we also “exchanged” our grand-dog, Louie, who was with us for a week. 

Louie accompanied us and the Bagley Pack to the farm where we prepared to ring in the new year with my cousins, Kathy and Eric and my brother, Allan, and his family.  

Shortly after arriving at the farm, John and I made a New Year’s Eve trip to Meridian to sell a load of cedar posts that Allan had cut.  The post yard is an interesting place to visit.  Cedar posts in all sizes are everywhere.  

You drive in with your load of posts, and they are unloaded, measured and stacked in the appropriate bins, then resold to whoever needs them.  

One guy was unloading, sizing and stacking our posts…one by one by one (a most tedious process!).  Another cedar cutter, whose load of posts was also being unloaded, was climbing a nearby pecan tree to fill his pockets with the tasty nuts.  His dog, who looked a lot like our Louie, only skinnier, supervised.

After collecting the $249 for our posts, we stopped by the Red Caboose Winery to pick up a bottle of their newest vintage port, Some of That Red.  (Actually, Red Caboose calls it a "port-style dessert wine."  The original port wine is a fortified wine produced exclusively in northern Portugal.  Under European Union Protected Designation of Origin guidelines, only a product of Portugal may be labeled as port.  In the US, however, wines labelled "port" may come from anywhere in the world.)

Some of That Red is a blend of different vintages of Tinta Madeira, Touriga, Souzao, Tinta Coa, Tinta Ruiz, and Lenior. It is my understanding that all these varietals are especially suited to the Texas climate, and I believe most, if not all, are grown on premises.  We recently finished a bottle of the 2013 port, and hope this one is as good.  Per Red Caboose’s recommendations, I plan to enjoy mine with some chocolate, and John will have his with a good cigar.  (If you visit either Meridian or Clifton, be sure to stop by Red Caboose and sample the port and some of their other wines.)

A good New Year’s time was had by all.  Even though the weather was cold and drizzly, we had invigorating walks with the dogs and good family time.  

Noah and Rachel, son and daughter of my niece, Erin, were the only kids at the farm this trip.  Noah went walking with us, and looked for bones, fossils and coyote scat while Clover stood watch.  

And played with her cousins.

Rachel was having a good time with her Christmas gifts and playing card games.  

In the meantime, the grownups were sampling hot toddies and preparing to welcome in the New Year.  (However, all of us rang it in a little early, as midnight is well past our bedtime!  It’s a little like declaring happy hour a bit early so dinner doesn’t happen too late.)

Since we weren’t planning to stay up to watch the ball drop in Times Square, fireworks happened as soon as it got dark.

The rainy weather continued through New Year's Day, culminating with a spectacular thunder and lightning show on Thursday night.  We were thrilled to wake and find an inch of precipitation in the rain gauge, but I was a little bleary-eyed from being up soothing anxious or barking dogs a good part of the night.  

We had a very unsettling experience on Saturday morning.  John and I went walking with the dogs (our four, Molly and Clover).  It was chilly, but no longer raining and we were having a fine time.  The dogs were looking for bunnies in the brush piles and racing madly through the pasture.

Then, as we approached our north fence line we saw a truck parked some quarter of a mile away at the neighbor's house.  That was unusual, since the people who own the property rarely visit.  We also saw a portable camouflage blind set up within six feet of our fence.  (If you are familiar with hunting etiquette, you know that placing a blind close to a neighbor's property is certainly frowned upon.)

A couple of minutes later, Molly scooted under the fence and entered the neighbor's pasture.  I quickly called her back.  She trotted back along a game trail that crosses the fence line, and started to wriggle under the fence.  She got half-way, then abruptly backed up and crossed back to our pasture a few feet farther along the fence.

I walked over to see what had stopped her progress.  The game trail on the neighbor's side of the fence was covered with corn, and hanging from the lower fence wire directly across the game trail was a thin wire noose you can see in the photo above.  It was a snare set to catch an unwary feral hog that might be lured by the corn.  Thank goodness Molly was moving slowly and not charging under the fence along the game trail.  If she had not sensed the wire in time to back away, she would have been caught and likely severely injured if not killed when the noose tightened around her neck.  

Enraged doesn't come close to describing my reaction, and John was equally upset, but fortunately a bit calmer.  He wisely suggested I take the dogs back to the house while he walked over to talk to the people who had set the snare.  After all, we had no idea if there were other traps set in the area and what other dangers there might be.  

Before leaving, I disabled the noose and took photos of the snare set-up.  

While I was doing so, someone drove across the pasture in a pickup.  He stopped a few yards away and would not get out of the truck to talk.  He then turned around and left.  It's probably a good thing.  

John did go over to talk to the hunters, who when confronted were very apologetic.  John explained (forcefully, but much more tactfully than I would have) that what they were doing was highly inappropriate, if not illegal.  In the first place, they had no control over what animal might be caught in their snare.  If they had caught a feral hog, it would have probably torn up the fence in its struggles to get away.  If a small deer had been caught, they would have broken the law by taking a deer by illegal means.  And, of course they might well have killed an unwary dog.  They removed the snare and said that they would also clean up the corn they had spread as bait.

As it turns out, the hunters were not the landowners but friends of his from the Dallas area who had been told they could go hunting there.  That they were ignorant, uninformed friends  does not excuse their actions, which certainly reflect badly on the landowner who allowed them to hunt there as well as on them.

We were shaken by the experience, as were my brother and his family when we told them.  We try hard to put safety first in everything we do on the place, but it's hard to anticipate what someone else might to.  We just feel very fortunate that there was no real harm done.  John will contact the landowner to make sure he is aware of the actions of his "guests."  And we hope we never see them again.

Fortunately, in spite of "what could have happened," we had a great weekend and look forward to a wonderful 2015.

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