"There's a Love Knot in my Lariat"

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It’s my mom and dad’s anniversary today. Almost every year, I remember – not the wedding of course since I arrived five and a half years later – but the occasion. Living as we did, on a working ranch in Saskatchewan, there were plenty of other things to think about in July but, every year, mom and dad celebrated their special day in some way, even if it was just a family dinner.

Mom and dad were married on the Diamond Dot Ranch in the open air under fledgling poplars that would one day obscure the dugout behind them. Under a gentle breeze, with family around them, they said their vows, loved and laughed, and danced the night away under the stars to the music of the Schroeder family. From that moment on, “There’s a Love Knot in my Lariat” became mom and dad’s song.

Slim and Florence Gates on thier wedding day - July 25, 1938

Twenty-five years later, my parents celebrated their Silver Anniversary in the same place - the Diamond Dot Ranch. The poplars had grown to towering heights and the old ranch house, although it still stood, had been replaced by a new log house. Dad butchered a beef, dug a pit to barbecue it in and constructed a wood dance floor. Mom cooked, baked and planned. When the day came, so did relatives and friends and they all reminisced, laughed and, just as they did twenty-five years before, danced until the wee hours of the morning under a starry prairie sky. Again, the Schroeders provided the music and, of course, sang “There’s a Love Knot in my Lariat”! This time, though, my brother and I celebrated with them. When morning came, no one could find Dad and Mom. After a little searching, they came out of hiding...

"After everyone went to bed," Mom said, "I realized we did not have a place to sleep, so we rolled out sleeping bags on bales of hay stored in the old ranch house." Perfect.

Slim and Florence Gates on their 25th Anniversary

Harold and I would celebrate another landmark anniversary with Mom and Dad - their 40th. This time I baked and decorated the cake and joined a representative of the Schroeder family with my guitar to sing, once again, "There's a Love Knot in my Lariat". They had retired and were living in Beechy then, having passed the Diamond Dot on to Harold. Though much had changed, their commitment to each other had not. With family, including grandchildren around them, they celebrated, once again, July 25th.

Slim and Florence Gates on their 40th Anniversary

I can only hope that, somehow, some way, Dad and Mom are hearing, once again (maybe with the harps of angels?), "There's a Love Knot in my Lariat". Miss you both...


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A week ago today, I picked up a female puppy at Crisandi Samoyeds in Keremeos. I had thought long and hard about buying a Samoyed - I could rescue one from SPCA and be many dollars ahead - but I could not imagine having another breed, having had Samoyeds for most of my life. Before this puppy was born, I had a deposit on her.

By the time I returned to Armstrong, where my horse trailer/living quarters was parked at a friend's, she had bonded to me. She adapted to travelling (although she didn't like the crate much and I doubt she will travel that way in the future!), sleeping in the living quarters of the trailer, and even "potty training". I had chosen a few name possiblities but did not settle on one until the next day -Mischa (pronounced "mee'-sha")., a name befitting her heritage (Samoyeds originated in the Ural Mountains of Russia).

Mischa and I in Armstrong the day I brought her home
 We spent one day in Armstrong before returning to the Chilcotin. I'm sure Mischa knew only one constant up to this point - me - and must have wondered if we were going to travel forever. That night I fixed a bed for her beside mine (no more crates!) and there she slept, only getting me up at 5:00 to go out. Having just returned from a trip, I didn't feel like staying up so I put her back in her "bed" with her toy, where she played a while then went back to sleep.

Mischa has lots to learn of course - necessary things like coming when she is called, staying where she is asked to stay and how to cope with country life. Slowly I am introducing her to the horses but it will be some time before I am comfortable with her around them - at least until she has grown up a little. I have taken her with me to feed a few times, keeping a watchful eye of course lest she get through the fence. (At least my horses are used to a dog, most of them having grown up with Kirby.) Mischa also must learn to stay in the yard, to lead on a leash (already started that) and how to be alone in the house. Small steps for now, though. I leave her for only very short periods of time. When she is outside on my big lawn, she romps and investigates - flowers, pieces of bark off the trees, bugs, butterflies.

Like all Samoyeds, Mischa loves people. Like all Samoyeds as well she looks like she is "smiling" when she opens her mouth. In this photo, she is "laughing"!

A responsibility? Yes, indeed, but there is no doubt that Mischa will bring an incredible amount of joy to my life. And does Mischa miss her litter mates? Not at all. After all, she has me . . . and all the attention!

A Filly Named Feather

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She entered the world on June 8, 2011, a little, rather scrawny, bony sorrel filly with distinctive markings - a bold white strip down her face missing a chunk  (like someone had bit a piece out of it!) that turned up on the left side of her back in the form of an unusual, irregular-shaped spatter of white -  like someone flicked a paint brush at her. I had not been looking forward to this foal and now I had a crop-out! I was not thrilled.

It had been a traumatic and sorrowful foaling season. Easter required emergency measures to save her baby and Prima lost the foal I had pinned dreams on. In fact, I had lost a piece of myself when I buried Baby Wimpy. I dreaded the last mare foaling. Whether I liked it or not, though, Silk was going to foal. I monitored her progress more out of duty than joy,  and now here the baby was - with her own set of problems - I had to drag her out of the stall when her mother colicked, then rescue her again a couple of hours later when mom had a panic attack! Although she was unfazed, I had had enough.

"When will it end?" I thought. "I'm tired and I don't want any more foals - ever!"

I gave her the name I had picked for Prima's foal had it been a filly (It wasn't.) - Feather. I had already decided not to plan ahead to next year even if I suceeded in getting Prima back in foal to Wimpys Little Step and giving the name away was part of that. Much had been attached to that name...(Read Feathers and Faith.) I let it go...

Feather is a month old now. Until recently I didn't pay much attention to her. I cared for them of course, even took a few photos, but I didn't halter her, pet her or hang out with her. I had nothing left to give and she and the two colts were just reminders of a painful memory that wouldn't go away.

Apparently Feather had other ideas. She always came to greet me, ignoring my indifference. If I sat in a lawn chair while Silk grazed, Feather would come up behind me and nuzzle my hair. She wouldn't leave me alone, wouldn't take "no" for an answer. And she won. Slowly, I emerged from my self-imposed, self-indulgent "funk". I noticed how pretty she was, how personality oozed from every pore, how she tried so hard for me to make me notice her. Feather was accomplishing what nothing else could. She was bringing me back to life. Like the gentle touch of a feather, she drew me to her. She is teaching me to love her. And the white spot on her back? It's growing too... and I'm learning to love it because it is part of her, a part of a very sassy filly who is filling a hole in my heart.

The spot that makes Feather "special"

And so I must consider the possiblity that my choice of the name, "Feather", had a far greater purpose than for a Wimpys Little Step filly. That name was meant to belong to a pretty, little sorrel filly with a big heart and the motivation to stir mine. Am I healed enough to face another loss? I don't know. But the other half of the title of that post last winter was "Faith". Remember - feathers are believed to protect and to carry spiritual messages. And I have my Feather.