Tuesday, January 17, 2017

A Little Hike Here, A Little Hike There

We've only got a couple of dry days between rainstorms at the moment.  Today was one of them, but too cold, dark and muddy for my taste.  I hoped the sun would come out for more than just a few minutes and dry up the ground so that I could ride a horse, but that didn't happen.  I decided to just go for a sloshy hike, so that I could get some fresh air and exercise.

"I'll definitely ride tomorrow," I told myself.

I hooked up my phone to my belt loop, donned my warm hat, and pocketed my house key to get ready to go, but then I saw the boys play-fighting out back and delayed my hike by a few minutes in order to take pictures.

My phone rang and I jumped out of my skin.  It's never ever good for my phone to ring if I'm not expecting a call.  It either means that I have to waste another minute of my life blocking a scam artist, or someone wants something from me, or someone has bad news.  I grimaced and glanced at the screen.  It was my farrier.  He was calling to reschedule for tomorrow since he doesn't want to trim hooves in the rain.  "Oh well," I told myself.  "I can always ride after he leaves, if the horses' hooves aren't too tender."

It's amazing how quick my plans to ride horses can get thwarted.  Just one more reminder to seize the day.  Even if my calendar is completely blank for an entire week that does not mean it will remain that way for very long.  At some point here, I also have to get all three dogs to the salon to get their nails trimmed while their bladders and bowels are relatively stable.  (Although Midge has been mauling her teat and causing it to bleed again, so while I've had a break from a deluge of urine and poop, I'm still dealing with blood stains.)  I was going to take them to the dog salon on Monday until I found out that it was yet another holiday.  The farrier had some really sad news too about someone who is dying.  I headed out to my hike feeling melancholy and deflated.

I took my camera with me, hoping to catch some wildlife in action.  Before I could even get my lens cap off, I saw a hare hop across the trail in front of me, going from right to left, and just when it disappeared behind a bush, a coyote crossed in the opposite direction just a few feet away.  The hare appeared to be eluding the coyote by circling around it.  By the time I reached that area, they both were gone.  But a short time later the hare reappeared beside me twice.  It had doubled back.

Yesterday I heard a wild cat screaming down in the arroyo behind my neighbor's house.  It sounded worried and upset.  It had to be either a bobcat or a mountain lion.  If I knew it was just a bobcat, I would have gone down to investigate, but the screaming was so loud and terrifying that I didn't want to take my chances and have it turn out to be a mountain lion.  I was curious as to what would cause it to be so upset, because as far as I know, bobcats and mountain lions have no enemies around here.  They're kind of at the top of the food chain.  I didn't hear any dogs barking, so it couldn't have been under attack by a dog.  I was on edge and listened closely for about an hour afterward to make sure the horses weren't in trouble.

I've been going down to the arroyo to look for evidence of trespassers, but so far so good.  No new footprints, and the tree branches are still blocking the trails.  But there have been a couple of times when the horses have alerted on something moving around down there.  I'm hoping it's just the wildlife.  I don't mind if the horses spook at wild animals creeping around down there, but I do mind if it's a human being ignoring my "No Trespassing" signs.  When I was out on the porch taking pictures of the horses, I heard someone yell, "Get off my property!"

That cracked me up, because it's good to know that I'm not the only land owner around here who is sick of trespassers.  My husband installed a gate across this alley that we left open for firetrucks.  People keep walking there and insisting that it is an easement.  Not true.  Both my neighbors and we have checked the county records, and that's our private land.  The locked gate should make that message loud and clear.

I also created that alley in part, because I didn't want a common fence with my neighbors.  I had a lot of trouble with my horses colicking at my old house, and I found out later that my neighbors had been feeding rotting vegetables and weed cuttings to my horses over the fence as a routine.  It actually wasn't just one neighbor, but two who were doing that.  Apparently, they thought that my horses were garbage collectors.  I suspect that they didn't have enough room in the garbage can for all of it, and didn't want to have to pay to take an extra load to the dump.

So, when I built my horse set up here, I took that into consideration.  Unfortunately, it created an alley between fences that the public mistook as being a huge welcome sign to walk through our backyard.  So, we're spending even more of our hard-earned cash to prevent that.  Anyway, while my husband was installing the gate, this couple in a luxury car pulled into my neighbor's driveway, and they climbed right through their fence and walked into their backyard and up to my husband to ask him questions about their house that is for sale.  I wish I was out there, because I would have told them that it's because of trespassers like them that we have to install that gate.  They asked him if they could walk around in the neighbor's backyard, and he just said that it's locked down like fortress.  I probably would have said, "You already are walking around in their backyard.  Why ask for permission after you've already trespassed?"

My neighbor has asked me to call the police when people do that, but it happens so often, and I don't want to give up another day of my life filling out police reports.  That is just so brazen to climb between the panels of a fence into someone's backyard.  This is why I refuse to invest in fencing around our four acres.  I really doubt it would make any difference.  Barbed wire isn't that hard to get through.  It's more dangerous to animals than humans.  My neighbor had put a lock on her gate because she was having such a problem with Looky Loos letting themselves into her backyard without a real estate agent and an appointment, and still these people figured out a workaround.

On another day when I was hiking, I was taken by surprise by two women leading a horse coming up from behind me fairly fast.  I turned around and they said hello.  I said, "I thought I was the only person around here who takes her horses for walks."

One lady shrugged and said, "We're just out for our exercise."

They told me I had a beautiful sweatshirt, and that they could see it for miles.  That made me wonder why they chose to follow me.  Most people take a different trail to avoid each other and give each other their space.  I thought perhaps they were trying to desensitize the horse to hikers.  Sometimes I'll intentionally follow someone to help my horse get its confidence up, so I told them that I like to hand-walk my horses out to get them used to hikers, bikers and other horseback riders.  They said nothing, but as soon as they passed me and thought they were out of earshot, one woman said, "I'm surprised she didn't tell us we're supposed to be on the back of the horse."

The other lady said, "That's what I was going to say."

So, apparently, I'm not the only one who has had that line delivered to her.  The horse didn't look like it needed to be desensitized to anything, and it wasn't limping like it had arthritis or was recovering from a leg injury or founder, so who knows what their reason was for hand-walking?  I was hoping they'd tell me, because I was interested.  Unfortunately, too many commentators probably made them shy about sharing their reasons.  I have definitely been put on the defensive more than once regarding my choices to walk instead of ride.  Everyone automatically assumes that you are too scared to ride, and they start giving unsolicited advice.

Anyway, on today's hike I was walking alone when a man with a walking stick crossed the trail in front of me.  He didn't look at me.  I wondered if he was my trespassing neighbor.  As I got closer, I saw that this was a young man.  He stopped by some bushes and had his back to me.  He was doing something with his hands down by his crotch.  When I realized that he wasn't even on a trail, I thought he might not have seen me and was taking a leak.

But then again, if you were going to pee in public, wouldn't you first look around to see if any witnesses were nearby?  I remembered the ladies' comment about my bright sweatshirt that they could see for miles.  I wasn't wearing the same one, but one that was just as bright as the other.  How could he miss me?  Next thing I knew, the guy was looking down, but peering stealthily over his shoulder at me, very aware of my presence.  My creep alarm went off full blast.  DING DING DING DING...

I worried about passing him, because then he could get behind me, but I was already committed.  Once past him, I stopped to take a picture I planned to take of a saguaro with a huge bird's nest in its cradle...

That gave me a chance to look back to see if the creep was following me.  He disappeared, which made me even more nervous.  I didn't want to lose track of him.  I immediately headed toward a more populated area, staying alert and keeping my head turning in all directions, so that he couldn't take me by surprise like those two ladies with the horse a few days before.

I got home safe and sound, but I've definitely had my fill of strangers these past few weeks.  When I synced up my fitness watch information, I found that my heart rate shot way up when my creep alarm went off, and it remained elevated all the way home.  That kind of goes to show you how your own fears can alter your body in such a way that horses can easily pick up on the change.  I was relieved that I didn't bring a horse with me on this hike, because it would have probably jigged all the way home with the way my heart was beating out of my chest.


Linda said...

Yeah, that would be weird and creepy. You sure have a different life out there than we do up here--wild cats crying in the night--walkers--strangers--never a dull moment. You're wise to create a space between you and your neighbors. When I bought Red, I was out doing a test ride on him and the neighbors dumped their grass clippings over the fence. The colt in the turnout with him had horrible diarrhea from, probably, just that thing. It could easy colic them. Scary!

Grey Horse Matters said...

Sounds like my creep alarm would have gone off too. He sounds like somebody I'd avoid and turn around and make a beeline for home.

Camryn said...

We have a space between ours and the neighbors. Problem is the new neighbors don't get that our property continues past the fence 😖 Hubby doesn't think it's a big deal, he will if I make him clean their dogs shit!

Mrs Shoes said...

Our closest neighbour is 1/2 a mile away - what I call 'a safe distance'. For them. haha

Brenda said...

As far as I know, bobcats don't make scary-sounding noises like what you were describing. Unless, I'm sure, there was something majorly wrong with it. Mountain Lions, however, have more than 50 names and one of them is Mountain Screamer. When my parents lived in Payson they heard a horrible screaming sound one night and a friend of theirs, who'd also heard it, said it was a mountain lion.