Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Memories and Lessons

With three funerals here, one right after another, I've been thinking a lot about people I've lost.

Luckily, it's mostly been memories that make me smile. There comes a point in the grief process where you still miss them, but you'd rather giggle than sniffle.

For instance... my great grandmother and her card playing buddies. Imagine, if you will, a bunch of very upstanding little old church ladies, ladies who quilt all year in order to donate to the church bazaar, make jellies and jams and baked goods to take to the nursing home and sick people... all sitting around a table and playing a game called Go Shit On Your Neighbor.

The best I can do to explain it is that it seemed to me that Old Maid and Bullshit got together and had a child, and so did Go Fish and Rummy, and Go Shit On Your Neighbor was the bastard offspring of an ill-advised drunken night between those two unknown games.

I don't think anyone but them ever knew all the rules, and I don't think that the rules were all that consistent, anyway. From what I saw of the game (I never managed to learn it even though I did sit in on a few games... mostly I just looked bewildered and threw cards out at random) it seemed to involve at least five decks of cards, vociferous trash-talking, and a lot of laughter. Also, quite a bit of cussing by people who wouldn't normally say shit with a mouthful.

They would play this game until three or four in the morning, and then get up the next day and go back to being upright little old ladies.

Believe me, when I was nine or ten and Sugar invited me to play cards with her and her friends, I never imagined that I would be walking into that. I went the first time because it made her happy, and a happy Sugar meant plenty of yummy stuff like cookies and pies and breads and taffy. She had the best recipes.

I've nearly convinced myself to make cactus jelly this year... We're getting close to being out of hers, and I feel like the tradition should continue. The only problem is, I am not the beloved matriarch of the family, so I can't just tell everyone that it's time to make cactus jelly and conscript them to help me pick a ton of cactus apples, which is just the beginning of the process. Nor do I have people dropping off clean, empty jars by the boxful, like everyone who had tasted her cactus jelly did for her, in hopes that she would thank them with their very own jar. She usually did.

If I do decide to make it, I'll just have to hope that I can come out with something close to the wondrous stuff she produced.

We're talking award winning jelly here folks. At one church bazaar a man paid two hundred dollars for a baby food jar of it. And, as generous as she was with everything else, including her recipes, she never shared that one with anyone but family, that I know of.

I've also been thinking quite a bit about Grandpa and his shirts.

He always wore long sleeved shirts with snaps. Most of them were plaid, too, but he had some solid ones. The only time I ever saw him not wearing a long sleeved shirt (including his deathbed, actually, where he wore pajamas with long sleeves) was when we were out in the boat on the lake, and he was actually skiing or sledding. He'd climb out of the water and back into his shirt immediately... his swimming trunks were, quite possibly, older than me, but he didn't worry too much about putting his pants back on until we got off the boat.

For the last... oh, four or five years of his life, you could be sure that at every Christmas or birthday, someone in the family would have gotten him shirts. He wouldn't buy himself new shirts, you see. So everyone else bought them for him. He'd act enthusiastic and thank whoever got them and take them home.

I never really thought about it till recently, but I can't remember more than a handful of times that I saw him wear any of his new shirts.

And even though when he died I took a whole pile of them that were never even unfolded and washed, and I wear them often, it was only today that I realized why he never wore them.

Well, actually, in a few cases it's quite simple. Either they lacked snaps (he didn't like button down shirts that actually had buttons... he preferred snaps) or they would have been, in his opinion, butt-ugly. I'm actually wearing one of the latter right now, and while I feel that I cut a dashing figure in it, he would have found the red, blue, yellow, and navy plaid to be entirely too, well, butt-ugly.

Yes, I do realize how ugly it sounds, and when I took it I figured it would be a work shirt, to be gotten stained and oily... and then I looked at myself in it and somehow it works.

Anyway, back to the point, even those shirts that would have seemed to fit his taste, he didn't wear. He liked his old shirts, quite likely for the same reason that I have a pair of pants that I have to patch the seat of (from seam to seam, just under both back pockets) with duct tape before I can wear them out in public. I love those pants. Those pants and I have been through a lot, and to discard them now just because they're a little thin and my ass hangs out of them would feel a bit like a betrayal. Besides, they're comfy.

I think Grandpa was the same about his shirts. He loved them, they were comfortable, and they suited him just fine.

And we all just kept buying him new ones.

I think, if he's out there somewhere looking down on me now, he's probably laughing that it took me this long to figure it out... and laughing even harder that I'm kind of wishing that I'd taken more of the superfluous shirts when he died.

Because even though he never wore them, they were his, and wearing them made me think of him and smile.

And now, I think that they'll make me smile and chuckle, and try to take yet another lesson from him. The lesson that you don't always have to tell people no to get your own way. Sometimes it's enough to smile and say thank you and just continue doing things the way you intended to all along, because chances are, they'll never really notice it anyway.

Thanks, Grandpa.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

HSUS- You Suck, and We Hate You

The Humane Society of the United States is back at their begging, running commercials with their president speaking oh-so-sincerely about how horrible the animals in the country have it and asking for money. With a hitch in his voice.

Kudos for his acting, actually.

No Kudos for his organization. If you're seeing these commercials and are tempted by the admittedly haunting images to send the organization money, DON'T.

HSUS collects a ton of money, yes. They own shelters, yes.

Here's the important bit though- 75% of donations go to paying salaries within the organization, and those shelters kill most of the animals that walk through their doors, to make room for "more adoptable" animals.

So ignore the over-the-top images (they dug up footage of someone CLUBBING A SEAL!) and the soft-voiced pleading from the president of the organization.

If you want to help unfortunate furry friends, consider the ASPCA, because at least they actually make the attempt to rehabilitate the animals. Granted, some dogs are euthanized when they show behavioral problems such as food aggression or animal aggression, but an effort is made to modify that behavior before the dog is given up on.

Not a fan of the ASPCA? Do some research and find a horse rescue near you. Then do some research on that facility and the people who run it. A little more work in this one as there is no country-wide organization to throw money at, yes, but these days good horse rescues are overwhelmed.

Since the ban of horse slaughter in the country more horses than ever are being neglected, starved, turned loose to fend for themselves, or abused. That's not artfully phrased begging, just the facts.

But please, if you do decide to donate to a horse rescue, do your research.

Because there are those out there who pretend to be a rescue, rather than actually being one. I know one place personally that claims to be a horse rescue but refuses to take any horse that cannot be "re-purposed." Then they charge a decent adoption fee, and the people who own it live quite well.

This is not the sort of place that needs your donations.

So talk to the boss at any place that you're thinking of donating to. Ask questions: What sort of horses do you take? What kind of rehabilitation do you do? What will my money go towards? Can I purchase and donate vet supplies instead? What vet supplies would you suggest I donate?

If they refuse donation of vet supplies, ask them why. If the answer is anything other than "We're very picky about what we use" or "we have an arrangement with a veterinarian" they're probably either not accepting horses that need extra care or they're not GIVING the extra care... also, if they say yes but only ask for wormers and vaccinations, find out WHY they don't accept donations of supplies like antibiotics or anti-inflammatories.

Ask them if there are any other items that you could donate in lieu of money. Places that refuse donations of blankets or leg wraps for any reason other than "we have too many" are a little suspect, to me. If they're spending the money on the care of the animals they should be perfectly happy to receive the items to care for the animals as well.

These points (with minor alterations depending on what kind of animal) can be applied to any animal rescue organization.

And HSUS doesn't even come close.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Away From The Blog..

For a funeral, since I'm in a bit of a funk.

In place of actual content, have a couple of links:

First: the first link that came up on Google about a coyote in a New York City parking garage a few days ago.

Second: take a serious warning from this tragic accident, and don't let this happen in your home.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Breed All About It: Rocky Mountain Horse

Today we're going to take a look at another uniquely American breed of horse, the Rocky Mountain Horse.

Much like the Quarter Horse these sturdy equines were bred to be multi-use, versatile beasts with the ability to work every day. Unlike Quarter Horses, they weren't intended for the races. Rather they were bred to be an all-around versatile beast of burden, sure footed and easy to ride.

The Rocky Mountain Horse is a gaited horse... meaning that it has a natural way of propelling itself across the landscape that fits a particular rhythm and is, reportedly, quite comfortable to ride for long periods. This gait is- regardless of what breed of gaited horse we're talking about, and there are several- faster than a walk, more comfortable than a trot, but not as fast as a lope, or canter, if you prefer. The Rocky Mountain Horse is required to have a four-beat gait, meaning that, like at the walk, each hoof strikes the ground individually, rather than any two legs striding at the same time, as with the lope, which is a three beat gait. This gait is natural, present from birth, and cannot be taught. Each horse has its own "way of going," meaning that no two horses will have precisely the same gait or speed. Rocky Mountain Horses have been known to gait at up to twenty miles an hour.

In the late 1800's a stallion emerged into the limelight of the Kentucky horse world, which at that time was far more practical and far less race-focused than it is today. This horse came out of the Rocky Mountains, and was called "The Rocky Mountain Horse."

Other than his unusual coloring, and the fact that he was bred to a geographically small sampling of gaited riding horses in Kentucky, that's pretty much all that's known about the stud who gave rise to a handy little breed.

I mention the stud's coloring, because the rather startling colorations available in the breed today are one of it's most recognizable features. Since we're talking looks, I'll show you some pictures. (It has nothing to do with the fact that I think Rocky Mountain Horses have some of the neatest coat colorings in the horse world. Not at all. So hush.)

Above is a particularly striking example of the dark body/flaxen mane coloration that is such an amazing first impression of the breed. More common is the chocolate/flaxen combination:

More pairings of bold body colors with flaxen mane and tail are apparent in the breed, although by no means are they all so strikingly colored. A Rocky Mountain Horse can be any solid body color, according to breed standards, and facial markings are acceptable if not "excessive." No white markings are allowed above the knee or the hock, however.

The color combinations seen above are examples of a particular expression of the same gene that makes a horse dapple gray. In some horses (as a breed, notably, Lipizanners, but the gene and this expression of it are apparent in many different breeds) the gene can cause them to fade from a more standard coat color, gradually over a lifetime, to a washed out dappled shade of their original color. In others, it simply creates a ghost of dappling in the coat, and still others are born dapple gray.

Other standards for the breed include height, (between 14.2 and 16 hands*) and notably, a good temperament. Very few breed standards include temperament, considering that to be an area in which bloodlines can be allowed to differ.

Since the Rocky Mountain Horse was a very utilitarian breed, its numbers plummeted with the advent of better roads, automobiles, and tractors. At one point it was listed as an Endangered Species.

Today, though, the Rocky Mountain Horse Association is dedicated to preserving and propagating the sturdy little beasts. While they're not anywhere near as common as Quarter Horses or Thoroughbreds, they're making an impact in the world of the pleasure horse, as sure-footed trail horses and gaited show ponies.

* 1 hand = 4in. This measurement was originally, much like the cubit, more haphazard, being the breadth of a man's hand.

** Second image ganked shamelessly from Hidden

Monday, March 22, 2010

Yes, Indeed

While I'm out of blog land go read PDB. He's got it right in this post

Light Blogging

As something that calls itself real life interferes.

The next Breed All About It is written and ready to go up so I'll set it to publish tomorrow morning.

*For those of you using a feed or a reader to get the posts... Sorry. User Error in changing the date on the post. It'll go up again tomorrow.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Census

With all of the blathering about the census, federal funds, and the "omg fill it out or the government will have to spend money sending someone to your house to get the info" hysteria, it frankly amuses the hell out of me as I am out and about to see plastic bags plastered with "Census 2010" in red swinging in the breeze on doorknobs and fences in the country.

At houses that are boarded up, overgrown with weeds.

It's tempting, oh so tempting, to take one of those bags, fill it out saying that three ghosts live there, and send it in.

Incorporeal Americans? Bodily Challenged?

Ectoplasmically Talented?

What do you think?

Back In The Saddle

Since I don't have an indoor arena with engineered footing and no-fire heaters, I don't get much riding in during the winter. Cold, snow, mud, wind, all of these things sap both my will to ride and my ability to do so, unless it's absolutely necessary.

When it's cold and your horse is feeling like kicking up his heels to warm up, and you're feeling like your nose is about to shatter and fall off your face, you just can't ride to the same standards as when you can actually feel your fingers and toes.

So I don't ride much during the winter, unless we get a rare day with warmer temperatures and no snow or mud on the ground. I'm extremely paranoid about treacherous footing when riding, simply because I'm not set up to stall a horse with a minor leg injury to keep them from moving too much. Being in a pasture rather than confined can turn a minor strain into something more serious in short order, so I watch my horse's legs. If we have to go into a muddy field to retrieve a straying cow, we go, with due caution, but I don't ride for fun when the footing is too bad.

So, Wednesday when we moved cattle, I had been off horseback for literally months, and I was so excited to finally get back on a horse and get back to doing what I love.

I rode Rebel, instead of my beloved and cow-loving Monkey for a couple of reasons. First, Monkey has been off for months as well, and if he was going to have a fit of exuberance about the spring day I'd rather it didn't happen when I have cattle to handle. Second, we have a bunch of little calves, the kind that don't always have the stamina to walk miles at a time, and sometimes those guys need picked up and given a ride in the trailer or the back of a pickup. The easiest way to get a hold of them without risking The Wrath Of The Mother Cow too much is to drop a rope over their heads while walking beside them on horseback. Monkey doesn't do ropes. At all.

Anyway, Rebel and I saddled up and started pushing cows. With wheat growing green and lush in the ditches, most of my job consisted of making sure that they didn't wander into the wheat fields and pushing and shoving them along as they dropped their heads to graze.

We didn't get too excited about getting anywhere in a hurry. Cattle who want to drop their heads and graze as they walk along are far less likely to go tearing off into the wild blue yonder for no real reason. Plus the slower pace means the calves can keep up.

Starting off we had Farmdad in the lead with cake in the back of the pickup. Our cattle love their candy so much they followed him like rats behind the pied piper for about five miles before the lead cow started eyeballing the wheat field across the road too much, and trying to slowly wander off.

At this point I was still helping push, with Farmmom in the other pickup, since the cows in back were more interested in the green stuff under their feet than the cake up ahead.

Once the lead cows got more interested in other things than the cake, I had a bit more of a challenge. I had to push in back to keep things moving, and also keep an eye on the lead cows to make sure they didn't take everyone off across the road.

When they started to wander that way, I had to get up to the front of the herd, which was strung out, before they could get too far.

Now, this can be a delicate balancing act, between getting there before they get out of the fallow field we were crossing and onto the road, and not startling the other cattle into going back the way we'd come or further into the field.

So I needed speed, but not too much speed. Luckily, Rebel was feeling very cooperative and listened to my cues well, keeping an eye on the lead cows we were going to head off while I kept an eye on the ones we were passing and adjusted according to their reactions.

All in all we moved the cattle seven miles in a little over four hours. Mom figures Rebel and I covered at least twelve miles, what with the back and forth behind the herd, circling around to keep the cows pointed in the right general direction when we'd stop and let them graze a few minutes to give the calves a rest, and the back and forth between pushing from the back and heading off the leaders before Farmdad went to the back to push instead of trying to lead them, leaving me to provide a block between the lead cows and the super juicy goodies across the road.

All in all it was a great day for a ride, I got a little sunburn on the back of my neck, my face, and my ears, and I discovered exactly how out of shape for riding I've gotten in the last few months.

But ya know what? Even though I was sore before I ever got off the horse, even though I knew I was going to pay dearly in muscle aches and bruises on my seat bones, I was smiling. Hell, I'm still smiling.

The first ride of the spring, my horse and I doing our work well, watching the calves at their mothers' sides, or pushing in front of the cows to try to get them to stop mom I'm huuunnngrryyyy!

I couldn't have asked for a better day. Everything went smoothly (ok except for the bull deciding he was done walking just short of the pasture gate and turning the lead cows back into the herd... even that was kind of entertaining, I mean, ever seen a bull work a cow like a working cow horse in competition?) and the day was lovely and at long last I got back in the saddle.

Unfortunately I had other things I had to do yesterday, and today a cold front moved in, dropping the temperature to ranges that I know better than to try to ride in with sore muscles, lest I get so stiff while riding that I can't get my leg over to get off.

Soon, though, the weather will warm back up and I'll get back in the saddle. Getting the horses back in shape and polishing their training, moving on to new things and hopefully getting some client horses in to work with.

Spring. I love it.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Breed All About It: American Quarter Horse

Partially because horses are a subject I can talk about for days on end and partially because nothing interesting is happening around here lately to provide me with alternate blogfodder, I've decided to do a series of posts about various breeds, their origins, the reason they were developed, the breeding and cross breeding strategies if I know them or can find them, and my own personal opinion of them.

It won't be daily, and it might not even be weekly, but it'll give me a stand by filler so ya'll won't have to wait too long for something to read.

Today, we're starting with my personal all around favorite: the American Quarter Horse.

Today's Quarter Horse is a long trot from it's origins, starting in the days when the US was still a loose collection of colonies. The colonists, after painstakingly shipping Thoroughbreds across the ocean (crossing oceans with horses is an expensive and specialized process today, much less in the days of sailing vessels) bred their steeds to the Native Americans', which were descended from mounts traded for, stolen from, or escaped from Conquistadors. Those Spanish horses had, in turn, bloodlines of Barb, Arabian, and Iberian lines.

Convoluted, no? But much like your average mutt, the wide mix of genes that went into the creation of the Quarter Horse often created an animal superior in health and intelligence to its purebred counterparts. After many, many generations and breeding experiments, today's Quarter Horse has developed some genetic problems of its own, but we'll get to those later.

Originally, the cross was experimental, and practical. Those colonists who were knowledgeable about animal breeding knew that they had to introduce new genes, and they used what they had. They hoped to get a working horse (stout, well muscled Indian Ponies) that could still compete in a race (Thoroughbred.) Racing your horse, or betting on the race, was one of the most common entertainments. The course of the race might be a stretch of the road leading to town, out and back (or perhaps out, around the edge of town, and back into the other side of town,) or if it was a big deal, between two nearby towns. The most common distance was a quarter or half mile, that being a distance that would allow the horses to show their stuff, while still allowing several races to be run in the course of an afternoon.

In those days, the breed was called "The Famous American Quarter Running Horse"- famous for it's speed over the quarter mile, and the almost universal lack of the stamina to maintain that speed over the longer distances.

In the 1800's, as Manifest Destiny swept across the land, so too did the Quarter Horse. Pioneers needed a versatile, hardy horse that was willing to work, and they found it in the unique Quarter Horse breed. As people settled and began raising families, and cattle, the cowboys tending to and moving the herds found another serendipitous trait of the breed- cow sense.

In the wide open spaces of the frontier, new challenges were found in dealing with cattle. The amount of room, lack of fencing, and general differences between tending animals in well-established areas in Europe and working with what you had in the Wild West required new techniques, new abilities, new horses.

As these things were worked out, partially through trial and error, and partially through skills used for generations by Spanish herdsmen it became apparent that the Quarter Horse was uniquely suited to the work. The compact, build allowed for quick movement, the thick muscling allowed the horse to hold their ground when attached to the opposite end of a rope from a large steer or cow.

Their intelligence allowed them to learn the behavior of the cattle, how to handle them. Those who picked this up quickly were bred to others with the same trait, until the behaviors that make for a good cow pony today can be observed in foals, as they begin to stray from their dam's side and play.

Another important point in the development of the American Quarter Horse is the breeding for personality- the cowboys needed a very specific kind of horse out there on the open range. They needed a steady horse that wouldn't spook at every shadow, but didn't lose all it's initiative. They needed a horse that liked people. If a cowboy had to get off his horse to do something, he wanted to know that his horse wouldn't take the opportunity to high-tail it back to the barn as soon as his back was turned. This created a breed well known for its good nature.

There are two kinds of American Quarter Horses, Foundation, and Appendix.

Foundation Quarter Horses hearken back to the breed's origins. They're stocky, with thick muscling. The heads are more blocky, less "pretty." I like to think of a Foundation Quarter Horse as "built like a tank."

The American Quarter Horse Association requires that the offspring of a registered Quarter horse and a Thoroughbred (with the Thoroughbred being required to meet a certain performance standard) be registered as an Appendix Quarter Horse.

The offspring of a registered Quarter Horse and an Appendix may be registered normally, thus changing the look of many bloodlines into something more delicate and refined. Thoroughbred blood introduces longer legs, less bulk, and a more delicate head.

Personally, I see the appeal of both the Foundation and the more refined looks, but my focus is more on the horse's personality and abilities.

Some of the downsides of the American Quarter Horse include genetic diseases. With today's technology, they can identify the diseases, and trace them back through bloodlines.

HYPP (Hyperkalemic periodic paralysis) is a disease that causes severe muscle twitching, and paralysis, for short or extended periods of time. This disease has been traced back to the stallion Impressive, and is believed to be the result of a natural mutation. The gene is dominant, so only one parent has to have the gene for the disease to manifest. Currently, horses that are homozygous for the gene are barred from registry in the AQHA, but horses that are heterozygous are allowed. There is discussion on whether to bar horses that have the gene at all from the registry, thus cutting the disease off from future generations of registered Quarter Horses.

HERDA (Hereditary Equine Regional Dermal Asthenia) is the result of a recessive gene, and causes a defect in the collagen that results in the layers of skin being only loosely bonded together. So loosely that, in severe cases, a simple pat can peel the layers of hide down to muscle, leaving an open wound. Horses with this disease cannot be ridden, because the weight and friction of the saddle causes tears in the skin, as will bumps and bruises. This disease is commonly believed to have originated with the Poco Bueno bloodline, perhaps before that famous stallion himself. Most horses with this disease are euthanized, both due to the fact that they're not suitable for riding and that they are care intensive, since the slightest bump can result in a painful and difficult to care for open wound, or a situation in which the skin doesn't tear but does come loose from the muscle, creating the possibility for abscesses.

Other genetic diseases present in Quarter Horses include GBED and EPSM, both diseases that effect the muscles. GBED is universally fatal in short order, the foal being unable to process glycogen and the muscles, including the heart and lungs, seizing up and failing to function. EPSM, while similar to GBED and HYPP in that the muscles seize up and fail to function, is not usually fatal, more commonly effecting the muscles of the legs and neck, preventing the horse from being able to move. EPSM attacks (commonly called "tying up") are caused by the body being unable to process and store polysaccharides, rather than glycogen. Tying up is also known in draft horses, and in the days of the true working horse was known as "Monday Morning Disease".. The horses would do heavy work all week, with a grain ration to match, and then would get a rest over the weekend. The grain ration wasn't always cut to match the lower exertion, though, and the excess of polysaccharides would cause the horse's muscles to lock up once they were asked to work. Instances of tying up are still linked to exercise and diet today.

Along with these there is some evidence that the Lethal White gene is present in Quarter Horses. This gene is related to the gene causing white coat, and is, as the name suggests, universally lethal. Lethal White foals are stillborn or die in utero to be re-absorbed.

The American Quarter Horse started out as a dual purpose breed and developed into the definition of the American West.

Not bad for what proper Englishmen considered a muttley breed, huh?

Saturday, March 13, 2010


I've always known that this corner of the state was interesting from a historical perspective. Most places you don't pick up arrowheads willy nilly, nor do you turn over every rock and find a fossil.

What is here though, in places, is wondrous.

From a complete Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton found near our distinctive, and dormant, volcano (now displayed in the Denver Museum of Nature and Science) to the well hidden fossil imprint of a whale in the wall of a canyon. From stick figure horses, warriors, and prey painstakingly scratched into the rocks near natural springs to the startling parallel markings that appear beside them, that certain experts say are clearly a coded written language first discovered in Ireland.

Picture Canyon is the most accessible, and most famous, place to view the Native American carvings and paintings, and the most famous instance of the ogam.

Crack Cave contains possibly the most agreed upon example of ogam in the country. There is some scholarly discussion, since the examples found in this area are, as far as I know, universally missing vowels. But there is very little argument about the Crack Cave carvings, considering their translation and the event that happens there at sunrise every equinox.

On the north wall of the cave behind the narrow fissure in the canyon wall there is a knob of rock, the ogam following it's contours. Among those who accept the idea of ogam in the United States, it's fairly well agreed upon that the inscription translates as "Sun strikes (here) on the day of Bel" with the parenthetical here being assumed, since every equinox, for a few minutes at the moment of sunrise, the light caresses that bulge of rock.

Those who have seen it say that it is an amazing sight, watching the first rays of the sun sweep across markings that were made so long ago.

There are actually three examples that read "Grian," meaning "Sun," in that cave. The inscription on the north wall, another at the back of the cave that stands alone, and one on the south wall, reading "Aois Grian"- "People of the Sun."

There is another site, on private property, that the authors of Ancient American Inscriptions- Plowmarks or History? called the Sun Temple.

In addition to having a circle inscribed at the back of a depression in the rock, indicating where to put your head on cross-quarter days at sunrise to see the sun framed as it crests the horizon by an outcropping in a canyon wall, it has another ogam inscription. This one reads "Noble Twins" and around it are scattered markings, shaped like plus signs. Based on similar carvings they assumed they were meant to indicate stars, and seemed to show a very specific alignment of Saturn, Jupiter, and Venus.

So, the authors of the book went to a cosmologist who had a program that modeled the movement of the universe, and found that, according to the program, that alignment, and the placement of the stars around it, also shown on the carving, happened before sunrise on the cross-quarter day, August 8th, 471 AD.

471 AD. Whether it was a traveler's documentation of something that happened before he arrived, placed there because of the site's relation to the cross-quarter days, or something that an observer documented as he saw it, we may never know, since at this time there is no reliable way to date the carving, but it is a wondrous thought, isn't it, that someone may have seen something he considered so amazing that he had to carve it into a rock wall for those who came after him.

Yet another inscription, this time in Central Colorado, is one of the longest translated inscriptions I found in my research. It is found along what seems to be a commonly traveled path, among rock shelters and some evidence of ancient fires.

"May be used for shelter. This is a sheltering place for travelers... Route sign to the west is the frontier town with standing stones as markers." (Translated by Leanord and Glen, 1981)

To the west of that site is a town that did indeed have standing stones as markers.

Some of the translations seem to be mostly guesswork. Not only is the written language dead as a doornail but it's like trying to translate snippets of a journal, written in a language you barely know, by a man who couldn't really spell, and who had really poor penmanship.

There isn't any commonly accepted explanation for the lack of vowels in ogam in the United States. It hasn't been found common anywhere else. Personally, I think perhaps the people who came here were mainly here for trade. At that time, to my understanding, only scholars had knowledge of the written word. Perhaps the people who carved these marks were traveling with traders, who would probably not wait their travels on a single man making marks in rock. In which case, dropping the vowels in a written language in which each letter took multiple marks would be a time saver, and the consistency of the dropped vowels would allow those who came behind to be sure to understand the messages.

It doesn't seem so far fetched to me, considering the way people today drop vowels and substitute letters for whole words online, or in text messages, to save time.

Srsly, it sounds plausible to me.

Of course, I'm not a scholar. If you'd like to know more, read the book I mentioned earlier. If you'd like to see Crack Cave for yourself, make your way to Southeastern Colorado. My county seat holds a festival spring and fall for the Equinoxes, and there are guided tours of Crack Cave to see the mystery in action.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Blogorado Products

Yes, I finally got some products done, like I've been promising. More will be added as I get the designs done, and if there's something else you want with one of the Blogorado logos on it, let me know, and I'll get it put together.

The designs currently available are all customizable, so if you want to add your favorite quote or a saying to them, you can.

Check out the store to see what we've got! There's also a link on the sidebar, and I'll be putting a gadget on Tractor Tracks' brand new Facebook Page as well. (Yes, I made a Facebook page for my blog. Go become a fan and feed my ego.)

Proceeds from sales of Blogorado merchandise will go towards financing this year's Blogorado.

*Edit: The gadget will go on the Facebook page when I can figure out how to make it work. It's not being very cooperative right now and I think the app may be broken. I shall try again later and see if it works better then.

*Second Edit: After a frustrating while, and a bit of research, it appears that Zazzle hasn't updated the app. Instead, I put up the link on the Facebook page.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Chapter Nine

Is now available.

Ya'll know the drill by now. Go, read, enjoy.

The End Is Nigh

At least I hope it is. Feeling much better, in spite of the pure evil that has taken up residence in my sinuses.

I'm still digging on the issue of the original Pinon Canyon acquisition, including the oft-repeated in regional papers rumor of a "promise" from the Army at the time of the original establishment of the Maneuver Site that it would "never be expanded."

I'm branching out in my search a bit since the local library, chronically short on funds, has little in the way of Colorado history in that time period, and the internet is remaining quite mute on the subject other than references to the original establishment inside pieces on the current issue of expansion.

Hopefully I'll be able to find... well, something, and shed some more light on the issue.

Until then, I did some research on a vaguely-related line, brought up in the comments on my last post on the subject.

Commenter Well Seasoned Fool brought up Picture Canyon (which is one of my absolute favorite places in the area to go trail riding) and I shared a bit of information beyond what he'd known. At which point commenter Chas S. Clifton suggested a book, which I found at the library and spent an afternoon digging through to get enough pertinent info to make a blog post.

So, coming soon, some information on ogam (or ogham, I've seen it spelled both ways and I'm not entirely sure which is correct) carvings in Southeastern Colorado.

A method of writing that is considered to have originated in Ireland found heavily in the middle of the United States, especially heavy in a "corridor" here in Southeastern Colorado that is generally agreed to have been one of the easy travel routes for trade.

One carving appears to document a planetary alignment that may have happened, according to a cosmological model, before sunrise on August 8th, 471 AD.

Very, very interesting stuff, and I'm working on a post to do it justice and trying as best I can to keep my facts straight, considering I am neither an archaeologist, nor a student of ancient languages.

That's in your coming attractions, anyway.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Phlegm River

I be fighting it.

Getting back towards feeling semi normal, and I'll get that research done as soon as I feel I can go in the library without getting my butt kicked by the librarian for bringing her germs.

Which will be soon, hopefully.