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Today, I was feeling a little inspired by a real bully to write a little children’s story (rather poorly…come on, I only spent five minutes on it!) in the style of a classic:

So without any further ado, here it is, retold for farm children: Continue reading “The Pasture that Daddy Fenced: A retelling of a children’s classic”

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It’s summer time in Texas.  It’s still early, and God hasn’t turned off the rain faucet or turned the oven to “broil” yet.  The neighborhood children are out of school.  It’s not so hot yet that they cannot play outside all day.  The grass is growing, the corn is tall.  The tomatoes are flowering, and there are little green tomatoes starting to ripen in the sun.  It’s the time of year when everything has sprung to life…

 

 

…and all that life has determined to kill something else.

 

 

Along with the grass come the grasshoppers, and if it’s green, you can bet they’ll be chomping holes in it.  They eat the silk off the ears of corn.  Weird caterpillars show up inside the ears of the sweet corn.  If we don’t harvest the corn soon, the whole crop will be gone.  There are strange looking bugs crawling all over the squash plants, eating holes in the leaves.  Stink bugs poke holes in everything.  They’ll leave bad spots in all those tomatoes that are still green on the vines.  The squirrel who lives in the tree next to the driveway will soon be up to his usual tricks.  He likes to come into the tomato patch and take one bite out of each tomato he finds.  He throws the rest on the ground to move on to the next.  The birds peck holes in the peaches.  Then there’s the chiggers…I’m pretty sure they’re trying to eat us.  They may actually succeed in eating a couple of the smaller children!  It’s summer, and it’s time for war.

If we move up the food chain a little, we’ll come to the lizards.  Fortunately, they crawl along the sides of the house every night, eating the moths that lay all those eggs that turn into the caterpillars that destroy all the plants all summer long.  Clearly, they ought to move from the house to the gardens.

Then come the snakes.  Oh, the snakes!  It rained last weekend, so they’re on the move.  It’s humid and warm…perfect snake weather.  The rat snakes are in the chicken coops, eating eggs instead of the rats that are eating the chickens’ food.  They’re long and look fairly intimidating.  These snakes are kind of cranky and do like to bite if their caught stealing eggs.  They’re not venomous…but the copperheads are.  Copperheads usually short and fat, but the ones we’ve run into this year they’ve been huge, and more the size of a really fat rat snake!  I’m convinced that there are snakes lurking in every patch of grass that’s any taller than the tops of my shoes.  There are water moccasins waiting to jump out should I decide to step off my front porch (some genius put a pond in the front yard!).  There’s a pit of vipers in that hole the dogs made under the porch…and please don’t trouble me with your version of reality that says, “If the dogs lay in that hole every day, there can’t be snakes in it.”

Sometimes, if you shoot a snake, babies will explode out of it.  Did you know that?  They don’t all lay eggs, some of them have live born babies.  If it meets my husband’s shotgun out by the barn in the dark, however, it’s all over for that snake…exploding babies and all!  That’s just how it goes during summertime warfare.

I sure wish we had a Rikki Tikki Tavi.  We do have 2 guineas.  Well, they’re not actually ours…they belong to our neighbors.  But they spend a lot of their time at our house!  Andrew keeps saying he’s going to try to talk our neighbors into getting some more guineas so they’ll eat more snakes, but I don’t think he’s done it yet.  I’ve been trying to talk Andrew into guineas for a couple of years now, but I suppose my arguments for guineas are just as effective as my arguments against chickens!  At least the neighbors got some that like to hang out here!  They just aren’t hungry enough, I guess.

That’s just how life is during the early summer here in Texas.  I never really thought about how strange this all would seem to someone who wasn’t “from around these parts”.  That's just how life is during the early summer here in Texas. A Guide to Surviving Texas… Click To Tweet

Several years ago, I worked with a girl who was a student from Germany.  One weekend, she had planned a trip with a friend to a rural property, where they would have a nice, relaxing weekend, and maybe float down the river a time or two.  The following Monday, back at work, I made the mistake of asking her how her weekend was, since I knew how much she’d been looking forward to it.  What followed was a rant of epic proportions!

“Texas is the craziest place I’ve ever seen!  All the wildlife here, if it’s not trying to kill you, it’s just trying to sting you and make your life horribly uncomfortable!”

She may or may not have used more colorful language than I just did.

“There’s snakes everywhere.  In the grass, in the water…everywhere!  There’s mosquitoes, and they’re not normal.  Some of them are like an inch long!  Don’t get me started on fire ants,” she was getting agitated now, and she pulled up the legs of her jeans to reveal hundreds of fire ant stings all over her legs.  “I found out about fire ants this weekend, I didn’t know about them before!  What horrible little creatures!  You have bees and wasps, too…”

“…and scorpions” I couldn’t help myself, I had to interrupt.  I was a little amused.  “We have scorpions too.  Always check your shoes before you put them on every morning.”  She looked at me like I’d grown a third head.

“See!  Everything here is trying to kill me.  And you’re all so proud of it!  Why do people live here?  It’s awful!  You have hurricanes and tornadoes…even the weather tries to kill you.”

“Well,” I was laughing now, “I’d never really thought about all that before, but you’re kinda right.  Texas is a pretty harsh place to live.  But, it is home.  I guess we are pretty proud of it, Texans are rather infamous for that.  It’s just home, and it’s just how home is.  I suppose if you make it through childhood here, you have something to be proud of!”


There’s lots of life out here right now, and the circle of life dictates that all of us have to eat.  So, if you come visit, catch a few grasshoppers, caterpillars, and weird bugs to help us save our plants.  Put them on the end of a fishing hook and catch us some dinner with them.

We’ll roast a few marshmallows over a fire in the front yard.  After all, the smoke helps to keep mosquitoes at bay.  Take a flashlight and a shovel if you go off by yourself (you can’t take the shotgun until you prove you know how to use it) so you won’t step on a snake in the dark.  Use the shovel to smash its head before it can bite you…or take more eggs from the chicken coop.

Be sure to keep your flashlight with you when you go to bed.  If you need to use the restroom during the night, you’ll need it to check for scorpions on your way…yes, even if you’re inside the house.  

It’s early summer in Texas, a time full of life in our home.  It’s a time of harvest…all the fresh produce we and the insects can eat.  In another month, the oven will be on, the rain gauge will be empty, and all that life will wither and blow away.  The dog days of summer will be oppressive.  So, we’ll say a little prayer of thanks for this time of the year.  Then, we’ll remind you to check your shoes before you put them on.  Scorpions.


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We’ve all heard stories of old about the infamous snake oil salesmen, selling all sorts of remedies for all kinds of ailments.  Well, perhaps they may actually have been on to something!

My dog, Trinity, has escaped death too many times to count in her 17 years.  From poisonings, to being run over by a horse, she’s had plenty of close calls.  But those are all stories for a different time.  Today’s story is about Trinity and mange.  It doesn’t really sound life-threatening on the surface, does it?

Well, this story starts about eight years ago, not long after Bear was born.  We still lived in town.  I noticed a small spot on Trinity’s back where she was missing her hair.  I thought it was a probably a sting or bite at first, and didn’t really think much of it.  But a week or so later, I noticed it was still there…and it was definitely bigger.  And was that another small bald spot on her face?

Having worked as a vet tech all through high school and college, I already knew it was likely to be mange.  My question was…sarcoptic, or demodectic?  Only the vet could answer that question.

So, off to the vet we went.  A couple of skin scrapings and microscope slides later, we had our answer.  Demodectic mange.  This type of mange is a nuisance to the dog, but it is not contagious to other dogs, or to humans.  It is treatable, but the effectiveness of the treatments varies.

We tried dips first.  No such luck.  Large doses of ivermectin were typically our vet’s next suggestion.  However, Trinity is part Border Collie.  The breed has a known sensitivity to ivermectin.  He advised against that type of treatment, as it could easily kill her.  We should only attempt it as a last resort.

We did some research on our own, and found a flea and tick prevention medication that had fallen out of favor for its intended use.  However, many folks were have a lot of success using off label to treat demodectic mange.  We decided to give it a shot.

The first time we used it, Trinity’s hair started growing back within a few days.  It stank horribly for a day or two, but if it was going to get rid of the mange, we were willing to deal with it.  It was a monthly treatment.  Low and behold, just before the month was up, here came the bald spots again.  So, it was monthly treatments from there on out.

We used that treatment for a couple of years.  We moved out of town, on to our little farm.  The effectiveness of the treatment began to wane.  Soon, the monthly treatments were only keeping the bald spots from getting bigger.  They weren’t going away anymore.  Eventually, we started treating more and more often…once every 3 weeks, then every two…

Then, the company that made the treatment finally took it off the market.  We couldn’t get it anymore.  What would we do for poor Trinity?  She was nearly completely bald, and she was miserable.  She looked like pictures that pop up occasionally that people take of some poor creature they found that they are just sure is a chupacabra…but they always wind up being some sort of canine with mange.  She just laid on her pillow all day long, not moving much unless it was to scratch.  

We decided it was time for the last-ditch effort.  We had ivermectin for the cattle.  We were hoping that Trinity had enough non-Border Collie parts to keep the ivermectin from killing her.  But, the unfortunate fact of the matter was, we were going to have to put her down if we couldn’t find anything to help her…she was just too miserable.  So, we got the dosage for ivermectin to treat mange in a dog her size, and, with a bit of trepidation, tried it.

Luckily, it worked…and she lived through it.  We kept treating, gradually increasing the dosage as it became ineffective.  Soon, we were giving her the maximum dosage twice a month.  But mange kept winning.  We again started to discuss whether euthanasia was the most humane option we had.

One day, just as the kids and I were getting home from a long trip to visit their grandparents, Trinity was out sniffing around in a patch of tall grass in the pasture.  As I pulled the truck into our parking area, she ran out to greet us…we had been gone several days.

Less than an hour after we got home, we noticed that Trinity was even more lethargic than usual, and there was a giant lump swelling up on the side of her face and neck.  She was already quite old, and she was weak from the mange.  We were afraid nature had made our decision for us.  Trinity had been bitten by a snake.  It was, in all likelihood, a copperhead.

We took her collar off, and tried to make her as comfortable as possible.  We waited for what we believed to be inevitable.

But the next morning, something strange happened.  When we got up, there was Trinity, laying on her pillow, slowly wagging her tail at us.  She was obviously still hurting from the bite, but seemed much better than she had the night before.  The swelling in her face and neck was starting to go down a little!  It didn’t seem possible.  

By the next day, she was up and around again, up to her usual antics…busily guarding the food bowl (the one activity for which she has always had the energy).  In fact, she even spent a lot of time outside, hunting the vile creature that had bitten her to pay it back for its crime.  We were shocked, to say the least.  But, an even bigger surprise was coming.

A few weeks later, I looked at Trinity one evening, and it looked like…it had to be my imagination!  But it looked like some of her hair was growing back.  I asked Andrew if he had given her more ivermectin.  He hadn’t.  He had given up.  I told him to come look at her.  We agreed…it looked like some hair was growing back.

Within three months, our hairless wonder had regrown a full, healthy coat.  It’s now been over three years, and the mange has never returned.  Now, Trinity has plenty of other health problems (as many 17 year old dogs do), but mange is certainly not one of them!

If only we had known sooner…snake bites cure mange!  Who knows, maybe those snake oil salesmen of yesteryear knew what they were talking about after all.

 

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Sincerely, Paula