A weekend in the country

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Paul is a Dork, Travel Stories

 


 

We have rancher friends.That’s right, there are people in this world who don’t have strip malls, traffic woes, or neighbors that aren’t relatives. My high school friend, Regina, and her husband Judd, live on a ranch, complete with cows, horses, tractors and lots and lots of alfalfa.They met in college, and after a stint traveling the world, they settled in to work the land on Judd’s family farm.Now, they are raising a family in the country and seem as happy as two squirrels in a gunny sack.I’m not sure that the squirrel/gunny sack reference is used properly, but I have heard them use the expression and wanted to repeat it here.

We visited Judd, Regina, their daughter Dylan and the unborn fetus that is expected to arrive sometime in July.In addition to the humans, the Hannas are also made up of 5 dogs, 16 or 17 orange cats, a bunch of horses and the countless number of deers and squirrels that run around their farm eating their crops.(More on the squirrels later.)

For the past two Memorial days, the Hannas have graciously invited us up to the ranch for what Regina has called, my “Mancation.”You see, as a stay at home parent, and self proclaimed liberal wacko, I have become somewhat of a candy-ass.Going to the ranch, allows me to get in touch with my inner macho stud, and I spent the weekend doing manly things.I’m not sure Amy liked what she saw, as she likes her little sissy husband, but it’s definitely good for me to get out there and live it up.

We arrived at the ranch on Friday night, and were treated to hamburgers, in what was the first course of our red meat orgy that lasted the whole weekend.I knew we had arrived in Etna when the people we passed on the road to the Hanna’s house all waved to us, even though they had no idea who we were.In the country, you wave to everyone you pass on the road, as if to say, “Hey there pardner, welcome to paradise.”Wanting to seem like a local, I waved back at everyone.I reckoned I was beginning to fit in.

Our first full day on the ranch began with venison sausages (a result of one of Judd’s hunting trips) and Regina’s homemade scones.We then went outside to check out the new baby horse, Sugar.Sugar was only a few weeks old and was easily the youngest horse we had ever seen.Malcolm had a great time watching and attempting to feed hay to the horses, but became concerned when we wouldn’t let him ride the still-way-to-skittish foal.To rectify this, we saddled up one of the older horses and lead the kids around the yard on a leash.Malcolm had a great time, and, considering he was deathly afraid of riding the horses last year, he showed a lot of guts riding by himself.

When the kids went down for a nap, Judd forever changed my life by introducing me to the greatest thing ever: shooting squirrels.Squirrels are a scourge to ranchers.They dig lots and lots of holes in the ground, and this presents a hazard, as the cattle will often fall into the holes and hurt themselves.Injured cattle are impossible to deal with as they way 14 million pounds each, and moving a cow with a broken leg is about as hard as getting me to go to church.In case you are still outraged that I would go squirrel hunting you can pretend that we out to protect ourselves from these:

To remove the scourge, ranchers have developed a unique method of reducing the squirrel population: they shoot them.Ordinarily, I eschew gun violence as a mortal sin, but since I was on a mancation, I happily obliged Judd.

We started out behind the Hanna’s house, outfitted with a .22 rifle with a bitchin’ scope on top. Judd, of course, laughed at me because I shoot lefthanded for some reason.I think he was a little impressed, though, when I actually got one, and soon all the squirrels in the yard were either dead or hiding.From there, things got interesting.Judd took me in his 4 wheel drive truck and we roamed the nearby pastures looking for miniature game.Whenever either of us saw a squirrel, Judd stopped, and if it was on my side, I took the gun, balanced it against the window frame, and fired.If the squirrel was on Judd’s side, he would do the same.We had a great time stalking our prey, laughing and telling stories, although I felt like in some respects like Sarah Palin hunting moose from a helicopter. Our helicopter was little more country, though, as Judd’s ranch truck is completely covered in trash, spent .22 casings, and mud. This is how I imagined we looked:

After our bountiful excursion, we returned to the house, where Judd and Regina had arranged for a babysitter to come and look after the kids while we went out eat at the Etna brew pub.That’s right, we actually got a night out drinking good beer and enjoying each other’s company.I tell you, as far as hosts go, Regina and Judd are the bomb.We returned to a quiet house to drink premium bourbon and hear more stories about life on the ranch.

The next day, Judd and I went to move pipe.A little known fact about a
lfalfa is that is doesn’t grow without water.Well, most people know that, but I didn’t.To water the acres and acres of the stuff, they employ a system of huge pipes attached to large wheels.The pipes needed to be moved twice a day, and we would head out there, disconnect the water supply, move the wheels forward 30-40 feet, and then reconnect them. Moving the pipes during the day isn’t all that fun, but getting there sure was.To get to the fields, we rode 4 wheelers, and I had a great time buzzing around in the fields, pretending I was racing ATV’s.Judd must have thought I was pretending to help him move the pipes because it took twice as long for him to get everything done with me there.

We took Judd’s truck to the barn where the ATV’s are stored, and Judd laughed at me because I instinctively reached to put on the seatbelt each time we got in the truck.I put on the seatbelt the first time I got in, but I decided that since I was on mancation, seatbelts were for sissies.I have never felt so alive.

We arrived back at the ranch to witness Judd’s little cousin beginning the process of breaking a cow for the big 4-h show later in the summer.Cows don’t really like being broken, and it takes a lot of work to get the cow comfortable around humans and a harness.Malkie was intrigued by the whole thing only because of the sheer volume of cow shit he witnessed coming out of the cow’s ass.

Later in the morning, we saddled up the horses and all went out for a ride together.Dylan rode on Judd’s lap, Malcolm rode on Amy’s lap, and I cried all the time without a lap to ride on, as I am not very good at riding horses.The only thing that made it cool for me was that I had not packed any long pants, and got to borrow a pair of Judd’s Wranglers for the ride.Yep, I wore Wranglers.Mancation indeed!The ride went well, except for the fact that my horse was a complete asshole and kept walking right under trees, subjecting me to the scrapes and scratches of the branches hanging down.I am pretty sure my horse smiled every time he walked under some branches.

Judd and I went squirrel huntin’ again during nap time, and Amy I and also went out for some off-roading in the 4 wheelers.During our little jaunt, we saw the ranch’s “dead pile” where they drag all the cows that die in the fields.While staring at the remains of a two day old carcass, we saw a small black bear running away.He have been sampling the steak tartar before we got there, as bear sightings are rare there. We also saw some wild turkeys, but they weren’t in season so I couldn’t shoot at them from Judd’s truck.

On the way back, we stopped at Judd’s nephew’s birthday party.Judd, his two brothers, and his parents all live next to each other, so going anywhere usually involves stopping at someone’s house and seeing what they are up to.The birthday party had begun to quiet down, so we sat in the yard drinking shitty beer and watching the kids jump around on a trampoline.Everyone in the country has a trampoline, and Amy, Malcolm and I even took turns showing our poor coordination.I was beginning to get the hang of it, but left the trampoline in shame when, on one of my jumps, the trampoline bowed so low that my butt actually touched the ground.

We capped off the evening with some steak, watermelon and a nice little tantrum by Malcolm.Malcolm was pretty well behaved for the weekend, so the fact that he only had one meltdown was pretty acceptable to us.Earlier in the day, however, Malcolm was on my lap on the couch when, for no apparent reason and no real notice, he threw up on my and the couch.I’m still not really sure why he did this, maybe it was his body reacting to the steady diet of red meat.

The next morning, we packed up the car, got a quick chicken fried steak and eggs from the local breakfast haunt, and said our goodbyes.Regina and Judd were great hosts, talented cooks, and nice friends to spend a weekend with.There was talk that the previously once a year event, “Etnapalooza” may be reincarnated, and if they do, I suggest that you try and make the trip and join us.Of course, you must be man enough to want to.

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5 responses to “A weekend in the country”

  1. Juddy says:

    Thanks for the kind words, Paul. In the manly dead-squirrel photo, is that me on the left or the right?

  2. Amy says:

    Certainly a mancation for you … but you forgot to mention Malcolm's move away from manhood. Whenever "Taxi" (Malcolm's beloved horse for the weekend) began to trot, Malcolm's nuts got slammed into the saddle horn. Girlish yelps ensued …

  3. Regina says:

    Glad you guys had fun and didn't feel like a turd in a snowbank. Come on up soon.

  4. Dad says:

    I spent my middle teen summers on my aunt and uncles farm in Etna (NH). I tended the pigs, chickens and cannabis (hidden in the rows of corn). For entertainment I would shot arrows straight up in the air. I'm still here because I could never really shoot them straight up. I never shot squirrels, but I decimated entire family's of tin cans with my very own .22

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